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HMRC internal manual

VAT Food

Items benefiting from the relief: Seeds and plants: Treatment of particular types of plant: Linseed and flax

The crop is grown either for its seeds and subsequent oil and residual meal, or for its flax fibre. Hence there are varieties developed specifically for each purpose.

  1. Linseed The vast majority of linseed is grown for the oil. Due to the oil’s high content of unsaturated fatty acids (a combination not found in any other vegetable oil), the predominant use of the oil is for industrial purposes, such as paint, varnish or linoleum. As the oil is not fit for human consumption, it is standard-rated.

The only uses the actual seed can be put to is as animal feed or for re-sowing. These supplies are zero-rated. The expressed oil, which is not edible, is standard-rated; while the residue meal is zero-rated when supplied for use as an animal feeding stuff. The left-over linseed straw tends not to be used for animal feed because of its fibrous nature, and it is usually ploughed into the fields.

  1. Flax These varieties are grown for the resulting fibre, for spinning flax. The harvested stems can only be used for processing into linen and are therefore standard-rated when supplied off the farm. However, the small yield of seeds from the flax varieties is likely to be used for animal feed and can be zero-rated. Once the flax has been scutched (extraction of the fibre), the left over woody portion cannot be used as an animal feed, and is sometimes used for making paper. It is therefore standard-rated.