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HMRC internal manual

VAT Food

Hot and cold take-away food: cold take-away buffets

The problem area that has arisen is in deciding when a supply of a cold food buffet is catering or when it is simply a supply of cold grocery items.

Firstly, you must ensure that the cold food in question is taken-away. If it is supplied for consumption on the premises on which it is supplied it will be standard-rated.

Secondly, you must decide if the supply is in the course of catering per se. If, after consideration of the factors involved, it is not a supply of catering then the cold take-away food will be zero-rated.

There is no definitive guide to which supplies of buffet platters are zero-rated. Each case must be examined on its own facts taking into account indicative factors such as those in paragraph VFOOD14315.

These factors are based on numerous tribunals in this area:

  • RV Vodden (V.1842);
  • C Chasney Ltd (1989 VATTR 152);
  • Out To Lunch (V.13031);
  • Emphasis Ltd (V.13759);
  • PJ & LJ Lawson (V.14903);
  • Wendy’s Kitchen (V.15531);
  • Safeway Stores plc (QB 1996, [1997] STC 163);
  • C & E Taylor (V.16211);
  • R & A Bardetti (V.16578);
  • Happy Place Ltd (V.17654); and
  • Carpenter & S Hayles (V.17851)
  • Value Catering Ltd [2011] SFTD 868

Although the above tribunals contain the factors that we refer to in paragraph VFOOD14300, before citing any of these tribunals we would advise that you read the respective decision to ensure that the factors are used in context. The Safeway Stores case is the leading precedent in this area.