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HMRC internal manual

VAT Food

HM Revenue & Customs
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Excepted items: Confectionery: General

Though the precise wording of the excepted items has been varied over the years since VAT was introduced, the term confectionery has thoughout been used in a wide-ranging sense. It has always included sweets and chocolates (sometimes known as sugar confectionery), but it also includes products such as biscuits, cakes, meringues and pastries (sometimes known as flour confectionery or baker’s confectionery). Cakes and biscuits other than chocolate biscuits are specifically excluded from coverage by the wording of excepted item 2.

In summary, the effect of the items is that:

  • confectionery is standard-rated; and
  • chocolate biscuits are standard-rated; but
  • cakes, biscuits (which are not partly or wholly covered in chocolate), drained cherries and candied peels are zero-rated. There have been many tribunal cases on the meaning of the terms used in these items, some of them now of only historic interest following changes to the legal wording. The main problem areas have been:

  • the definition of confectionery;
  • the definition of cake;
  • the definition of biscuit;
  • whether various baker’s confections are caught by the term confectionery; and
  • the borderline between the various items, such as between cakes and biscuits.