Issue 12 - Autumn 2021

The ongoing saga of VAT and Jaffa Cakes

I thought I would tickle your tastebuds …

It’s my personal opinion that you should never assume anything with VAT. Many of you are probably thinking now of the Jaffa Cakes case which was about whether it was a cake or a biscuit?

It’s sold in the biscuit aisle, can be eaten like a biscuit and advertised the same way as other biscuits. But it has the same ingredients as a traditional sponge cake and goes hard when it goes stale, unlike a biscuit which goes soft. In the UK, value-added tax is payable on chocolate-covered biscuits, but not chocolate-covered cakes.

In 1988, the statutory definition of confectionery (which is subject to VAT) was changed to include items of 

sweetened prepared food normally eaten with the fingers. HMRC undertook a review and reversed its viewpoint ruling that Jaffa Cakes were actually biscuits partly covered in chocolate and so subject to VAT. In 1991 McVitie’s appealed and headed off to a VAT tribunal.

The court found in favour of McVitie’s and stated that, legally, Jaffa Cakes are considered a cake, which means that McVitie’s doesn’t have to pay VAT on Jaffa Cakes in the UK.

This all happened back in the early nineties, but 30 years on we have the issue with other confectionery bars. 

In accordance with the 1988 statutory definition of confectionery, cereal bars held together with syrup are subject to VAT.

However, Wm Morrison Supermarkets have recently argued that this definition does not apply to Nakd Wholefood bars whose main ingredient, dates, was already sweet and not sweetened by other ingredients or natural flavourings.

So, I’ll leave you until next time pondering how VAT can be so tricky, and with the other thought, can a pineapple flavoured Jaffa cake still be called a Jaffa cake?

I thought a Jaffa was an orange!

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