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Charges for loo roll, none for caviar: strange quirks of the UK’s VAT rules

Still Waters

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Is a mini poppadom a crisp? Is a Jaffa Cake a biscuit? Is a flapjack confectionery? These are all questions tax officials in the UK have had to wrestle with in the 51 years since VAT was introduced.

The tax, which you pay when you buy goods and services, is charged at three rates: the standard 20%; 5% on child car seats, home energy and some other items; and 0%, which applies to most food, children’s clothes and tampons.

But there are strange anomalies.

For example, toilet rolls attract 20% VAT but caviar is VAT-free. Last week, toilet roll maker Who Gives a Crap started a campaign for the “roll tax” to end, saying its research showed 70% of people were unaware of the charge.


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