VAT treatment of supplies of food

By Tolley

The following Value Added Tax guidance note by Tolley provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • VAT treatment of supplies of food
  • VAT treatment
  • Basic foodstuffs
  • Processed foods
  • Bakery products
  • Ice cream and other similar frozen products
  • Confectionery
  • Drinks and savoury snacks
  • Other specialised food products
  • Conclusion

This guidance note provides an overview of the VAT treatment of food supplied for human consumption. It should be noted that this is a contentious area of VAT law and HMRC's view on the VAT treatment of food and drink is often challenged in the courts.

VATA 1994, Sch 8, Group 1(a); VFOOD1000; De Voil V4.218 (subscription sensitive); Notice 701/14 
VAT treatment

It is important to note that any food supplied in the course of catering, including hot takeaway food, is always liable to VAT. If the food is not supplied in the course of catering or as hot takeaway food, the following VAT treatment should apply.

Most food items are liable to VAT at the zero-rate. However, there are a number of items of food that are liable to VAT at the standard-rate.

For human consumption

An item is ‘food of a kind used for human consumption’ if it meets the following criteria:

  • an average person would consider that the item is food or drink if they knew what it is and how it is used, and
  • the item is fit for human consumption


Food would include:

  • products eaten as part of a meal or as a snack, and
  • items, such as flour, wheat and other grains which may not generally be eaten by themselves, which are recognised as being food ingredients

Food would generally not include:

  • medicines or medicated preparations
  • dietary supplements, food additives or similar items which are not

More on Zero-rated supplies: