Food & Drink

Introduction

This information leaflet sets out the VAT treatment of supplies of food and drink when made by Wholesalers, Retailers, Caterers (including Take-aways) and Vending Machines.

General

The supply of food and drink for human consumption is subject to a number of different rates of VAT, depending on the food and drink concerned and how supplied. In general, most food sold by retail shops is subject to VAT at the Zero rate, but there are many exceptions specified in the legislation where the Standard, Reduced rate or Second Reduced rate is to be applied. These exceptions are set out below under the specific headings Wholesale/Retail, Catering (including Take-aways) and Vending Machines. The Summary table to this leaflet gives examples of the VAT rates applicable to the supply of food and drink by different outlets in various scenarios.

In addition, while food is not defined in the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010, (VATCA), a limited number of food supplements may also benefit from the Zero rate, provided they fall within the ordinary and everyday meaning of "food".  Supplement products that do not fall within the ordinary and everyday meaning of "food" cannot benefit from the Zero rate and will be liable to VAT at the Standard rate. See Food Supplements leaflet.

Terms Used

The term "catering" used in this leaflet includes the provision of food and drink services by cafés, canteens, caterers, location caterers, hotels, public houses, restaurants, retail shops, take-aways and similar businesses.

The term "hot food and drink" refers to cooked food which has been heated, has been retained heated and is supplied while still warm after cooking enabling it to be consumed at a temperature above the ambient air temperature and that is above the ambient temperature at the time when it is provided to the customer. It includes items such as burgers which consist of hot meat enclosed in a cold bun, cooked chickens and similar food. The term does not include freshly baked bread which may have residual heat after baking at the time of purchase.

The term "take-away" used in this leaflet refers to food sold in a catering business for consumption without further preparation off the premises in which it is sold.

Rates

Zero Rate

The Zero rate of VAT applies to the supply of most foodstuffs, such as bread, butter, cheese, cereals, condiments, flour, fruit, herbs, meat, milk, pasta, pastes, sauces, soup, spices, sugar, and vegetables (fresh or frozen). This list is by no means exhaustive.

However, it should be particularly noted that the supply of food and drink that would normally be liable to VAT at the Zero rate becomes liable to VAT at the Second Reduced rate when it is supplied in the course of catering or by means of a vending machine.

Standard rate

The Standard rate of VAT applies to certain items of food and drink which are excluded from the scope of the Zero rate or the Reduced rate, such as the following:

  • alcohol, bottled drinking water, soft drinks, juice extracted from, and other drinkable products derived from fruit or vegetables,
  • Ice cream, frozen desserts, frozen yogurts and similar frozen products, and prepared mixes and powders for making any such products or similar products,
  • savoury products made from cereal or grain, pork scratchings, and similar products such as vegetable crisps, prawn crackers, poppadums,
  • potato crisps/sticks/puffs and similar products made from potato, potato flour or potato starch,
  • popcorn, salted or roasted nuts,
  • biscuits and wafers wholly or partly covered or decorated with chocolate or similar product and
  • all kinds of chocolates, sweets and similar confectionery.

Reduced Rate

The Reduced rate of VAT applies to flour or egg based bakery products, including cakes, crackers and certain biscuits and wafers, but excluding items in this category that are subject to the Zero or Standard rate of VAT.

Second Reduced rate

The Second Reduced rate of VAT applies to certain food and drink when supplied;

  • hot,
  • in the course of catering (including hot Take-aways), or
  • by means of vending machines.

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Wholesalers/Retail

Wholesale and/or Retail Supplies

In general, most food sold by wholesale and retail shops is subject to VAT at the Zero rate but there are many exceptions specified in the legislation where the Standard rate, Reduced rate or Second Reduced rate is to be applied. See "General" above.

Retail Outlets providing Café and Restaurant Services

If your business operates as a retail outlet and also supplies restaurant or café services then your business will be regarded as carrying on a separate activity of catering. Please see "Catering" below.

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Catering

VAT Rates Applicable:

Supplies of alcohol, bottled waters, soft drinks, sports drinks, vegetable juices are liable to VAT at the Standard rate in all circumstances in the course of catering.

All other food and drink, including fruit juices, supplied with a meal in the course of catering, is liable to VAT at the Second Reduced rate including the following

:

  • Food and drink normally chargeable to VAT at the Zero rate,
  • Tea, coffee and cocoa in drinkable form,
  • Products (normally chargeable to VAT at the Standard rate) when supplied in the course of a meal such as :
    • Ice-cream, frozen deserts, ice lollies and similar products,
    • fruit juice,
    • savoury products made from cereal or grain, pork scratchings and similar products,
    • Potato crisps, popcorn and roasted nuts ,
    • all kinds of chocolates, sweets and similar confectionery, and
  • Products normally chargeable to VAT at the Reduced rate (such as biscuits, cakes, crackers and wafers) when supplied in the course of a meal.

Hot Food

The supply of Hot food is liable to VAT at the Second Reduced rate.

Cold Zero rated food supplied with hot food for an inclusive price (for example, coleslaw with hot chicken) is liable at the Second Reduced rate.

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Combination Meal Deals

Meals of this type, also commonly referred to as "value meals", consist of items liable at different rates of VAT, typically being hot food liable at the Second Reduced rate together with a soft drink liable at the Standard rate, which are sold together for a single consideration, usually at a discount. Such a discount should be applied to all the items of the meal at their appropriate rates of VAT. Please see Multiple Supply, Mixed Supplies of Goods and Services and Cash Registers/Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) for further information and examples.

Cold Food

Zero rated cold food supplied in the course of catering (including take-away sales) is liable to VAT at the Second Reduced rate. However, if you also make cold food take-away sales, you may apply to your local Revenue District to have such cold food take-away sales treated, by concession, as a separate activity to your catering business, and to apply the Zero rate to such cold food take-away sales.

It will be a condition of such a concession that you keep and maintain accurate records which correctly identify the amount of cold food take-away sales and also the amount of hot food take-away sales. If you fail to maintain and retain accurate records that correctly identify the different supplies concerned Revenue may refuse to allow you to continue to have cold food take-away sales treated as a separate activity at the Zero rate and raise an assessment for VAT based on the appropriate rate/rates which will also be liable for associated penalties and interest.

Catering on off-shore oil rigs and on foreign-bound ships and aircraft

The Zero rate applies.

Catering in schools and hospitals

Catering services are Exempt from VAT where supplied;

  1. to patients of a hospital or nursing home in the hospital or nursing home, or
  2. to school students at their school.

Staff Meals

Staff meals, when taxable, are liable at the Second Reduced rate.

Dinner Dance (Admissions)

Receipts from admissions to dinner dances are liable at the Standard rate including the dinner element in the charge. If there are separate charges for the dinner and the dance and payment of the charge for the dinner is not a condition of admission to the dance, the dinner charge is liable at the appropriate rates as outlined above, and the charge for admission to the dance is liable at the Standard rate (see separate VAT Information Leaflet Dances).

Vending Machines

Generally, food and drink sold via a vending machines attracts the rate of VAT applicable to the item sold. Please see "General" above for specific rates. However, the Second Reduced rate applies to the following:

  • Tea, coffee and cocoa drinks.
  • Food and drink normally liable at the Zero rate, such as sandwiches, rolls or milk.

Further information

Enquiries regarding any issue contained in this Information Leaflet should be addressed to the Revenue District responsible for the taxpayer's affairs. Contact details for all Revenue Districts can be found on the Contact Details page.

VAT Interpretation Branch,
Indirect Taxes Division,
Stamping Building
Dublin Castle.

March 2015

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Summary Table

Food and Drink - Examples Summary Table
Type of Food or Drink Hotels, restaurants, canteens, pubs etc. Vending machines Retail / Wholesale 'Take-away' only business
  With a meal Not with a meal      
Alcohol, bottled waters, soft drinks, sports drinks and vegetable juices 23% 23% 23% 23% 23%
Bread, butter, sugar etc (off the shelf produce)       Zero  
Cakes, biscuits (other than chocolate covered biscuits) 9% 13.5% 13.5% 13.5% 13.5%
Chocolates, Confectionery, Crisps, Ice cream, Biscuits - chocolate covered 9% 23% 23% 23% 23%
Coffee, Tea (Hot) 9% 9% 9% 9% 9%
Coffee, Tea (non-drinkable form)     9% Zero  
Coffee, Tea  with confectionery 9% 9%
23%
  9%
23%
9%
23%
Coffee,Tea with scone/ cake 9% 9%
13.5%
9%
13.5%
9%
13.5%
Cold Sandwiches* 9% 9% 9% Zero Zero
Hot Sandwich** 9% 9% 9% 9% 9%
Fish, Chips (Frozen or uncooked)       Zero  
Fish ,Chips, Burgers (Hot) 9% 9% 9% 9% 9%
Fish and Chips with soft drink 9%
23%
9%
23%
  9%
23%
9%
23%
Fruit juices 9% 23% 23% 23% 23%
Take-away Food (Hot)***   9% 9% 9% 9%
Take-away Food (Cold) ****   Zero Zero Zero Zero
Vinegar     9% Zero Zero

Notes :

*Cold sandwiches include cold bread, bagels, baguettes, paninis and wraps.

** Hot sandwiches include hot/toasted bread, bagels, baguettes, paninis and wraps and also includes cold bread, bagels, baguettes, paninis and wraps that contain hot fillings.

***Hot take-away food such as burgers, baguetttes which include cold garnish such as coleslaw is liable to VAT at 9%

**** See Cold Food paragraph in Food and Drink Leaflet

Alcohol, bottled waters, soft drinks, juice extracted from, or other drinkable products derived from fruit or vegetables and sports drinks are always charged at the Standard rate of VAT. However, fruit juices supplied in the course of a meal are liable to VAT at the Second Reduced rate.

Tea include herbal tea and fruit infusions also referred to variously as fruit teas or fruit flavoured teas.

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