VAT lot of good

According to new research, VAT rulings on food items have left Brits confused as to what foods are deemed ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ by the UK government.

Whilst it claims that unhealthy products will be subject to VAT to discourage purchases of junk food, Brits failed to identify which foods were deemed healthy under this ruling, given that chocolate cake, millionaire’s shortcake and frozen ready meals are VAT-free, while the likes of fruit smoothies, cereal bars and protein bars are subject to the 20 per cent VAT rate.

Respondents were given a list of VAT exempt and charged foods and asked to identify which they believed would be VAT-free and which would be subject to 20 per cent VAT in line with the government’s policy to allow tax breaks for healthy foods in order to lower the cost of following a good diet, and to subject unhealthy foods to VAT in order to discourage shoppers from buying them.

The top five incorrect results in each category were as follows:


  • Chocolate cake – 97 per cent of respondents wrongly guessed this would incur VAT
  • Caramel or millionaire’s shortcake – 91 per cent
  • Chocolate chip cookies – 85 per cent
  • Gingerbread – 82 per cent
  • Toffee apples – 80 per cent.

Subject to 20 per cent VAT

  • Snacking raisins – 79 per cent of respondents wrongly expected this item to be VAT-free
  • Protein bar – 77 per cent
  • Frozen yogurt – 71 per cent
  • Roasted peanuts – 69 per cent
  • Fruit smoothies – 63 per cent.

When the results were revealed, respondents were asked what they thought, with the majority stating they felt ‘surprised’ (95 per cent) and ‘confused’ (82 per cent). Just six per cent agreed with the rulings.

Julian Hearn, founder of Huel – the company behind the survey – comments, “We are all for healthy eating and we think this incentive to bring costs of healthy foods down is a very positive thing. Unfortunately, there are places where the categories don’t seem to make sense and may not be quite up to date with our knowledge and lifestyle today.

“We now have an alarming rate of the population with type two diabetes; we should use the VAT system as a disincentive for unhealthy foods which contribute, such as sugary foods like millionaire’s shortbread and chocolate cookies.”

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