HMRC’s VAT Notice 701/14: food explains what types of foods are zero rated and standard rated for VAT. The notice includes many examples of different food categories. The notice covers some general VAT liability rules. For example, food supplied in the course of catering is standard rated for VAT. This includes hot take-away food. Most basic food stuffs intended for human consumption and not supplied in the course of catering are zero rated for VAT. However, the definition of 'basic' is not straightforward.
The following food and drinks must usually be standard rated:
- Ice cream, similar products, and mixes for making them. Note that frozen yoghurt that’s designed to be thawed before being eaten is zero rated.
- Confectionery, apart from cakes and some biscuits. Drained cherries and candied peel are zero rated.
- Alcoholic beverages.
- Other beverages, and preparations for making them. Exceptions that are zero rated include milk and milk drinks, tea, maté, herbal tea, coffee and cocoa, preparations of yeast, meat and egg.
- Potato crisps roasted or salted nuts and various other savoury snack products.
- Products for home brewing and wine making.
Produce that’s unfit for human consumption, such as waste and contaminated food products (including used cooking oil), may be eligible for zero rating as animal feeding stuffs.