Food for thought

Supplies of food used for human consumption are generally zero-rated for VAT. However, there are some exceptions, such as confectionery, which are standard-rated.

Food for thought

Cakes are zero-rated but determining whether a product is a cake has never been straightforward and has just become even more complicated.

In the recent Duelfuel Nutrition case, the First Tier Tribunal decided that twin packs of sports nutrition bars which contained a flapjack to be eaten before exercise and a cake bar to assist with post-exercise recovery were confectionery and therefore standard-rated for VAT.

Historically HMRC has accepted that a traditional flapjack is a zero-rated cake but has refused to zero-rate cereal bars or sports nutrition bars.

However, the Tribunal in the Duelfuel case concluded that, although the products in question may have looked like cakes, the ordinary person would not consider them to be cakes because of their ingredients, taste, packaging, marketing and intended consumption.  It was noted that a cake is generally regarded as high-calorie food eaten as a treat, but Duelfuel’s products were not suitable to serve at afternoon tea and their nutritional benefits strongly suggested they were not cakes.

This is a hollow victory for HMRC because Duelfuel has ceased trading due to the ongoing VAT dispute.  The case demonstrates that the consequences of getting the VAT wrong can be significant and the VAT treatment of food can be complex and unexpected.

If you have any queries on VAT or would like assistance please contact Stuart Evans on 01633 654170 or

Alternatively, please contact your usual advisor on 01633 810081 or email