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HMRC internal manual

VAT Food

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Items benefiting from the relief: Seeds and plants: Treatment of particular types of plant: Grass

There are hundreds of varieties of grass seed, and it is impossible to identify any particular variety as being suitable only for a specific purpose. It is normally the case that grass seed, for whatever purpose, consists of a mixture of two or more species - it is rare that a straight grass is used.

Grass seed policy reviews Since VAT was introduced, we have tried to create a borderline between grass seed used for agricultural purposes and grass seed for amenity purposes. Each time we have come up against the argument that a great number of grasses used in amenity mixtures are also used in agricultural mixtures, so it would be impossible to draw a tidy line according to species for the purposes of VAT.

Solicitor’s advice was sought in March 1975. It was concluded that grass seed used for amenity purposes and grass seed used as an animal feed were not mutually exclusive. The former does not necessarily preclude the latter, and it was not difficult to suggest instances in which use as animal feed could follow amenity use both domestically and by local authorities. It was concluded that it would not be correct to standard rate grass seed held out for sale for purposes other than growing as animal feeding stuff.

During the last review in 1993/94, our proposal was again to standard rate grass seed for amenity and other non-feed uses. We invited comments from various trade associations; and the responses were not in favour of standard-rating amenity grass seed. The arguments that were put forward mainly revolved around the monitoring and maintaining of the borderline of such a proposal and its practical implications.

No clear workable borderline has emerged, and our policy remains that all grass seed is zero- rated. This includes supplies to and by garden centres, supplies to local authorities, and grass seed to be grown on set aside land.

Pre-germinated grass seed We are aware of two types of pre-germinated grass seed. The first is a grass seed that has been pre-germinated in a solution, dried in the air and then returned to its original packaging. The other type remains in the solution and is subsequently applied to the land by skilled operatives.

Both types tend to be specifically advertised for amenity use, such as for bowling greens, golf clubs, tennis courts, or cricket grounds etc. Because of the high price, they are usually only supplied to sports clubs and so on, rather than as an animal feed.

In Business Brief 17/94, it was announced that pre-germinated grass seed was not seed for the propagation of animal feed and not eligible for the zero rate. With the satisfactory settlement of a tribunal appeal, we announced in Business Brief 12/95 the implementation of our long-standing view that pre-germinated grass seed is standard-rated. This became effective from 1st October 1995.

TurfAs with pre-germinated grass seed, turf is not used for propagating animal feeding stuffs and is therefore standard-rated. For supplies of hay, straw and grazing rights see

Notice 701/15 Food for animals.