Victory for Innovative Bites Ltd as Judges Rule Marshmallows Not Subject to VAT

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In a flavorful victory, Innovative Bites Ltd, a food company, has emerged triumphant against the UK tax authorities, securing a ruling that exempts its “Mega Marshmallows” from VAT due to their classification as cooking ingredients rather than confectionery.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) had appealed a 2022 decision by the first-tier tribunal (FTT), which had absolved Innovative Bites Ltd from paying a hefty £472,928 in sales tax on its marshmallow products. HMRC contended that the marshmallows should be subject to the standard 20% VAT rate, given their status as “sweetened prepared food which is normally eaten with the fingers.”

However, the upper-tier tribunal rejected HMRC’s arguments, affirming the FTT’s determination that the Mega Marshmallows were predominantly sold and purchased for roasting rather than immediate consumption as confectionery. Despite HMRC’s emphasis on the means of consumption, the judges sided with Innovative Bites, highlighting the marshmallows’ intended use in cooking and their subsequent physical transformation when roasted.

The judges emphasized that roasting the marshmallows led to a distinct change in texture and flavor, distinguishing them from standard confectionery products. They also took into account the seasonal consumption patterns, noting that Mega Marshmallows were more commonly consumed during warmer months, aligning with their intended use for roasting.

This case echoes previous legal disputes over the VAT status of food items, reminiscent of the famous battle over the classification of Jaffa Cakes as biscuits or cakes in the 1990s. Similarly, the recent ruling draws parallels to a case involving Glanbia Milk’s flapjacks, where the tribunal determined their VAT liability based on factors such as consumption habits and product characteristics.

Innovative Bites Ltd’s victory underscores the nuanced nature of VAT classifications in the food industry and sets a precedent for similar cases involving the tax status of culinary products.

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