So Innocent Drinks has lost its long-running battle with government over whether its fruit smoothies should be subjected to VAT.
The posh smoothie maker, now majority-owned by Coca-Cola, has always argued that its little bottles of ‘goodness’ are a “liquefied fruit salad” rather than a soft drink.
On the one hand Innocent has a point, as giving consumers an easy way to comply with key government messages on health, most notably to consume five portions of fruit and veg a day, should surely be encouraged.
However, despite its name, Innocent is not a charity and is not simply on a philanthropic mission to improve the health of the nation. So why should it receive any special treatment?
Of course that is all very well – but surely what this ruling does highlight is the current absurdity in the tax system when it comes to food and drink.
Soft drinks, including bottled water, are all subject to VAT, while cakes and biscuits are VAT-free.
It gets even messier when you consider that crisps are subject to VAT but Pringles are not. Back in 2008 those clever people at P&G managed to persuade the High Court that its crisp-like bestseller was in fact more like a cake.
So surely the next step for Innocent is to add a hint of flour and egg to the mix and launch Innocent smoothie cake – now that really would be taking the pith.
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