Tax Highlights Awards: Best Supporting Food Case of the Year

Another intriguing distinction drawn by the UK’s Value Added Tax (VAT) regime is that between “animal feeding stuffs” (zero-rated) and “pet food” (standard rated). Most of the time, this distinction isn’t an issue – few people would find it difficult to distinguish farm animals from pets, no matter how strong an attachment they develop for their pigs and cows. Food for the latter clearly constitutes “animal feeding stuffs.” So does food for working dogs. But does the same apply to dog food which, though formulated with working dogs in mind and purchased almost exclusively by the owners of such dogs, is not only suitable for all dogs, but is expressly described as such on the product’s packaging?

On an appeal to the Upper Tribunal (HM Revenue and Customs v Roger Skinner Ltd [2014] UKUT 204 (TCC)), HMRC argued that it did not. If a particular type of dog food were suitable for all dogs, then it was “pet food”, even if its market were confined almost entirely to working dogs.  The Upper Tribunal, upholding the decision of the First-tier Tribunal, disagreed. Dog food did not become “pet food” simply because it was suitable to be eaten by pet dogs, any more than maggots used as fish bait by anglers became “animal feeding stuffs” merely because they could also be used as food on fish farms. What mattered was how the product was held out for sale. In that respect, the overall holding out was critical, not the packaging by itself.

While not quite reaching the dizzy heights of the snowballs case (see our previous post), we felt that this case was a worthy winner of the category for best supporting food case of the year.

Dr Craig Rose, Technical Editor, Global Tax Guide

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