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HMRC internal manual

VAT Food

Excepted items: catering: premises: categories of premises

You will see from the rest of VFOOD4500 that, whereas in some cases it is not difficult to recognise premises, in others there will be doubt. Our treatment of common examples is set out below. You should bear in mind that it is the actual circumstances rather than the generic description which will be the deciding factor. In some cases, you should also consider whether there is catering per se - see paragraph VFOOD4140.

The introduction of note (3B) into the VAT law with effect from 1 October 2012 clarifies our previous policy that the premises from where food is supplied include any area set aside for the consumption of food by the food retailer’s customers, whether or not the area may also be used by the customers of other food retailers.

What is meant by ‘any area set aside for the consumption of food’?

This is any area specifically provided for the consumption of food by a food retailer’s customers (or by them and the customers of other food retailers). These are typically areas with tables and chairs, and which are regularly cleaned and cleared -see below for examples. Areas where anyone can sit down and rest, or waiting areas in airports and railway stations are not included. Such areas are not specifically provided for the consumption of food supplied by one or more retailers and do not therefore fall into the new definition of premises.

What is the significance of ‘the area may also be used by the customers of other suppliers’?

It has become increasingly common for food retailers to share their eating areas with other retailers. The main example is food courts which are often found in shopping centres, airports, and motorway service stations. This wording ensures that food sold by retailers for consumption in these shared eating areas is standard-rated irrespective of whether the area is owned by one or more of the food retailers or their landlord.

Examples of areas that ARE defined as premises:

A restaurant (or similar café, canteen, type business). 

  • The whole restaurant area
  • Areas with tables and chairs on the pavement, concourse or similar areas adjacent to (i.e. near to or next to) the main premises.

A retail outlet in a shopping centre 

  • The outlet itself
  • Areas with tables and chairs in designated areas belonging to that outlet or provided for the exclusive use of that outlet, and
  • Areas with tables and chairs in food courts shared with other food retailers.

A retail outlet on a high street 

  • The outlet itself, and
  • Areas with tables and chairs outside the establishment provided for the use of customers

A supermarket 

  • Any seating areas within the shop, and
  • Areas with tables and chairs outside the establishment provided for the use of customers.

A stall in a sports stadium, amusement park, exhibition, gallery or similar pay-entry venue 

  • The stall itself, and
  • Facilities provided adjacent to the outlet for the use of customers.

A retail outlet within an office building 

  • The outlet itself, and
  • Facilities provided adjacent to the outlet for the use of customers.

Areas that DO NOT fall within the definition of premises:

The definition of premises does not include areas with tables and chairs available for general use by the public who are not customers of one or more food retailers. Examples include:

Benches in shopping centres designed as general seating for customers to rest or wait.

Tables and chairs in a public picnic area -for example picnic benches by a motorway service station where people can eat sandwiches that they have prepared themselves (as well as ones that have been purchased from the service station), and where the area is not regularly cleaned and cleared by the retailer or the landlord, and

Seating areas in airport lounges and railway stations where customers wait for their planes and trains.

The table below contains the guidance prior to the 1 October 2012 changes and is retained for information only.

### Event/Location ### The premises
   
Agricultural shows, markets and Showgrounds The catering outlet and any facilities provided at the outlet for the use of customers - chairs, benches and tables by the outlet.
     
  Airports The catering outlet and any chairs and tables in delineated areas for the use of customers of that outlet.
     
  Amusement parks The premises are only the catering outlet and any facilities for consumption
  Building sites The retail outlet and any facilities provided with it.
  Bus and railway stations The retail outlet itself, plus any facilities provided with it. For example, this would include the area with tables and chairs at a café on a platform, but would not include chairs and benches on the platform for the general use of the rail passengers (Travellers Fare Ltd V.13482).
  Clubs The building and its curtilage are the premises.
  Coaches, trains, ships and aircraft All are premises, but supplies may be incidental to the main supply. Refer also to the guidance on VTRANS.
  Exhibition halls The retail unit itself, including areas such as those with seats and tables, provided for use of the customer (DCA Industries Ltd V.1544).
     
  Factories The canteen or restaurant area, plus the dining room or similar dedicated dining area around the catering facilities are the premises.
  Film and TV location sets This is normally catering per se.
  Football grounds and sports stadia Usually only the retail outlet within the ground is the premises unless that outlet has any chairs or tables provided for the use of customers which would be included. Since Compass, we no longer stand by the decision in the case of Bristol City Football Supporters Club V.164.
     
  Holiday camps, caravan parks and camping sites The open grounds of a site are to be treated as if they were a public space. However, any dining room, canteen, bar, restaurant or similar area within the camp or park is a set of premises for supplies made from those respective facilities.
  Hospitals The retail unit itself, plus any facilities provided for the customers. Hospitals often have a canteen or restaurant, either for staff or the public, and that in itself will also be a set of premises for the relevant tests. See Ashby Catering Ltd (V.4220) or Carpenter Catering (V.18418).
  Hotels, hostels, motels The restaurant/dining area in such an establishment is its own set of premises.
A supply of room service is a supply of catering per se.    
  Industrial estates Each retail unit rather than the estate is a set of premises. A mobile retail unit in an estate is its own premises, as long as it does not serve an area of dedicated tables and chairs that has been provided alongside.
     
  Markets and covered shopping areas The retail unit itself, plus any facilities provided for the use of customers.
     
  Military bases The retail outlet and any dining areas/facilities provided with it are the premises (Bishop and Elcocks V.17620).
     
  Mobile outlets in public areas Only the outlet and facilities like the counter and any tables and chairs are treated as the premises.
     
  Motorway service areas Catering outlets and associated facilities are treated as premises. Many services provide a large area of seating with many outlets around it. The retail outlets and this area are considered to be the premises. The rest of the service area is effectively a public thoroughfare. The Prêt a Manger case (V.19755) may be of assistance in questions on seating areas.
     
  Office buildings The retail unit occupied by the food supplier, plus any dining areas provided for use of their customers, such as designated dining areas next to a deli or sandwich bar, or tables and chairs provided outside a canteen.
     
  Piers The retail outlet and associated facilities.
     
  Public buildings Retail outlets are separate premises, though some facilities may also be provided in the form of delineated dining areas.
     
  Public car parks No premises - this is effectively a public open space.
  Restaurants, cafes, pubs and similar outlets The whole of the respective outlet is the premises, including any chairs and tables located outside the unit, such as on the street outside, beer gardens, or covered areas with picnic tables
  Schools and colleges Are mostly one set of premises. Supplies may be incidental to the supply of education involved - see VAT Notice 701/30 for further guidance.
  Shopping centres The retail units and nearby food courts and dining areas within the centres are the premises.