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whether pringles are similar to potato crisps …. May 20, 2009

Posted by Bradley in : food , trackback

The BBC story on the Court of Appeal decision on the rate of VAT applicable to Pringles (over-ruling the decision of the High Court, and encouraging deference to the decisions of VAT Tribunals on matters of fact) misses quite a lot of the fun (although it points out pretty clearly the bottom line for Procter & Gamble). Food products are zero rated for VAT, but this treatment does not apply to:

potato crisps, potato sticks, potato puffs and similar products made from the potato, or from potato flour, or from potato starch, and savoury products obtained by the swelling of cereals or cereal products; and salted or roasted nuts other than nuts in shell.

On the question whether Pringles are similar to potato chips, Lord Justice Jacob said that:

This sort of question — a matter of classification – is not one calling for or justifying over-elaborate, almost mind-numbing legal analysis. It is a short practical question calling for a short practical answer.

And Lord Justice Mummery said:

it is vital to recall why the Tribunal was required in the first place to answer the question whether the goods in question are “made from” the potato. It was not in answer to a scientific or technical question about the composition of Regular Pringles, or in response to a request for a recipe. It was for the purpose of deciding whether the goods are entitled to zero rating. On this point the VAT legislation uses everyday English words, which ought to be interpreted in a sensible way according to their ordinary and natural meaning. The “made from” question would probably be answered in a more relevant and sensible way by a child consumer of crisps than by a food scientist or a culinary pedant.

It’s pretty clear that Pringles are treated as being the equivalent of potato chips in my house – however they are made.


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