Are Turmeric shots zero rated?
The Innate-Essence Limited Case
In the Innate-Essence Limited (t/a The Turmeric Co) First Tier tribunal (FTT) case the issue was whether turmeric shots were zero rated food via The VAT Act 1994, Schedule 8, Group 1, general item 1 or a standard rated beverage per item 4 of the Excepted items.
“General items Item No 1 Food of a kind used for human consumption. …
Excepted Items Item No … 4 Other beverages (including fruit juices and bottled waters) and syrups, concentrates, essences, powders, crystals or other products for the preparation of beverages.”
Turmeric roots are crushed and the pulp sieved to extract the liquid. No additional liquids such as apple juice, orange juice or water are added during the production process.
The Shots contain:
- small quantities of crushed, whole fresh watermelon and lemons which act as a base and provides a natural preservative effect
- fresh pineapple juice
- flax oil and black pepper
All the ingredients are cold pressed to retain the maximum nutritional value of the raw ingredients. The Shots are not pasteurised as this would negatively affect the nutritional content of the Shots. No sugar or sweeteners are added to the Shots. The Shots are sold in small 60ml plastic bottles and it was stated that they provided long term health benefits.
The court applied the many tests derived from case law on similar products, and as is usual in these types of cases, the essence of the decision was on whether the Exception for beverages applied to The Shots.
Whether a product is a beverage (standard rated) is typically based on tests established in the Bioconcepts case (via VFOOD7520) as there is no definition of “beverage” in the legislation. The tests:
- it must be a drinkable liquid that is commonly consumed
- it must be characteristically taken to increase bodily liquid levels, or
- taken to slake the thirst, or
- consumed to fortify, or
- consumed to give pleasure
The principle of the tests is based on the idea that a drinkable liquid is not automatically a beverage, but could be a liquid food that is not a beverage.
The Tribunal found that the Shots were not beverages but zero rated food items. As The judge put it: “In our view, the marketing and customer reviews demonstrate clear consistency in the use to which the Shots are put. The Shots are consumed in one go on a regular, long-term basis for the sole purpose of the claimed health and wellbeing benefits. The purpose of the Shots is entirely functional: to maximise the consumers daily ingestion of curcumin which is achieved by cold pressing the raw ingredients into a liquid. We consider it highly unlikely that a consumer would attempt to ingest the same quantity of raw turmeric in solid form.
The Shots are marketed on the basis of the nutritional content of the high-quality ingredients (primarily raw turmeric) that are stated to support health and wellbeing. The Shots contain black pepper and flax oil, two ingredients that are not commonly found in beverages. The Shots are marketed as requiring regular daily consumption over a long period of time (at least three months) to provide the consumer with the claimed long-term health and wellbeing benefits. A one-off purchase of a Shot would not achieve the stated benefits of drinking a Shot”.
Yet another food/beverage case. Case law insists that each product must be considered in significant detail to correctly identify the VAT liability and even then, a dispute with HMRC may not be avoided. Very small differences in content, marketing, processes etc can affect the VAT treatment. As new products hit the shop shelves at an increasing rate we suspect that we will be treated to many more such cases in the future. If your business produces or sells similar products, it will be worth considering whether this case assists in any contention for zero rating.