In HMRC v The Core (Swindon) Limited [2020] UKUT 0301 the Upper Tribunal (UT) upheld the decision that fruit and vegetable juices sold as a meal replacement were food and not beverages, therefore, were correctly zero-rated for VAT.

The case concerned the treatment for VAT purposes of mixed fruit and vegetable juice sold as part of a 'juice cleanse programme’ (JCP).

The First Tier Tribunal (FTT) had previously found that the juices were food, and therefore zero-rated, on the basis that they were perceived as meal replacements by customers and were held out for sale as such.

HMRC appealed to the UT citing that the FTT erred in law in concluding that the juices were not beverages. HMRC contended that it was wrong to allow the way in which the JCP was marketed to dictate the basis of classification for VAT purposes.

The UT found that:

  • In all cases involving classifications for VAT purposes, there needs to be a multifactorial assessment.
  • The way a product is marketed and sold is a potentially relevant factor in every case.
  • The FTT considered all relevant factors in reaching its conclusions and gave equal prominence to the way in which the JCP was marketed and the way the product was in fact used.

HMRC’s appeal was dismissed.

Useful guides on this topic

Food: catering and takeaway
There is sometimes confusion as to how food is treated for VAT purposes. If the food is purchased from a supermarket, one rule may apply. If the same food is bought from a café a different rule could apply.

Meal replacement juices are food
The Core (Swindon) Ltd v HMRC [2018] TC 06874 the FTT decided that for VAT, fruit and vegetable juices sold as a meal replacement were food and not beverages and therefore zero-rated.

External links

HMRC v The Core (Swindon) Limited [2020] UKUT 0301 (TCC)

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