United Biscuits has lost a VAT tribunal over whether or not its dipping
crisps constituted food or a snack.
The case – described by one tax practitioner as a ‘farce’ – revolved around
whether or not the crisps involved some measure of preparation in order to be
Food is zero-rated for VAT purposes, whilsts snacks are in many cases
Chairman of the tribunal Colin Bishopp was quoted in The Telegraph
saying: ‘We are satisfied that dipping a crisp into a pot of salsa cannot amount
to preparation in any normal sense of the word.’ He threw out United Biscuit’s
Paddy Behan, VAT partner at Grant Thornton, said United Biscuits had been
unlucky: ‘There are elements of Greek tragedy about this farce because the case
turns on the meaning of the word “preparation”.’
Two years ago Procter & Gamble won an almost identical case claiming its
Pringles Dippers needed ‘preparation’.
HMRC defended its pursuit of the case, which involved £100,000 worth of tax:
‘We have to pursue cases to safeguard revenues, even if they seem like a small
amount of money.’
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