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The Coming VAT Tax Exemptions Quagmire April 5, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Food, Politics.
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“Food of the kind used for human consumption,” to a British bureaucrat, is something “the average person, knowing what it is and how it is used, would consider it to be food or drink; and it is fit for human consumption. . . . The term includes . . . products like flour, which, although not eaten by themselves, are generally recognized food ingredients . . . [but] would not usually include . . . dietary supplements, food additives and similar products, which, although edible, are not generally regarded as food.”And so, in the United Kingdom, according to the regulations of Her Majesty’s Inland Revenue Service, crackers made from tapioca starch carry no tax; prawn crackers made from cereals do. Frozen yogurt that needs to be thawed before eating is zero rated, frozen yogurt bears the tax. Get it? If you don’t, too bad—Her Majesty’s tax collectors are not in the habit of offering an explanation for their regulations.

This process of writing regulations for the VAT man when he cometh is more than merely amusing. For one thing, it confers enormous power on faceless bureaucrats.

They can hand a competing product the advantage in the U.K. of a price 17.5% lower (in Sweden it’s 25%) than a close substitute. That invites both lobbying and corruption and sheer, inexplicable arbitrariness. Get your “sweetened dried fruit” deemed to be “held out for sale as snacking and home baking” and your product will bear a tax and have to compete on grocers’ shelves with zero-rated “sweetened dried fruit held out for sale as confectionary/snacking.” Peddle your sandwiches “as a general grocery item” and consumers pay no tax, but offer them as “part of a buffet service” and the VAT man wants his 17.5%.

via Irwin Stelzer: Small Bras and the Value-Added Tax – WSJ.com.

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