The VAT treatment of food and drink in Ireland can vary depending on what is being sold and how it is being supplied to the customer. The majority of food sold in shops and supermarkets is at zero rate, while the reduced rate (13.5%) applies to certain baked items including crackers, bagels, cakes and plain biscuits, and the standard rate (23%) applies to various items, examples of which include ice-cream, chocolate biscuits, sweets and crisps. Hot food and food provided in the course of catering is liable to VAT at the reduced rate while food supplements are treated separately for VAT purposes.
More information on the VAT treatment of food can be found on the Revenue website here.
For VAT purposes, food supplements are items for human consumption which are not ordinarily considered to be food and which are marketed to the consumer as dietary supplements.
As these items are not considered food they are subject to VAT at the standard rate, however, in 2011 Revenue issued guidance (eBrief No. 70/11) to the effect that vitamins and minerals, in either tablet or liquid form, and fish oils for human consumption are subject to zero rate VAT.
In December 2018, Revenue issued new guidance which confirmed the removal of the zero rate concession for vitamins, minerals and fish oils. As of January 2020, these items will be subject to the standard rate of VAT. Revenue also confirmed that as well as food supplements such as those defined above, the standard rate of VAT also applies to sports nutrition supplements, slimming aids, and liniments, ointments and rubs made from food ingredients.
With the vitamin and mineral market in Ireland currently worth circa €37 million annually (source: Statista), the overall increased cost of the new VAT measures to the Irish consumer will be approximately €8.5 million per year. This figure is set to rise, as the Irish vitamin and mineral market has an expected compound annual growth rate of 1%.
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