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HMRC internal manual

VAT Food

Excepted items: snack products: roasted and salted nuts

General

The third part of excepted item 5 standard-rates salted or roasted nuts other than nuts in shell, and is therefore of fairly restricted application: any edible nuts which are not roasted or salted, or are roasted or salted but sold in their shells, are zero-rated as food under general item 1 of Group 1.

Meaning of ‘nut’

We interpret the word nut in its usual everyday meaning, rather than using a strict botanical definition. Included are peanuts, cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds, chestnuts, brazils, hazelnuts, cobnuts, pistachios and macadamia nuts. All are zero-rated unless roasted or salted and sold out of their shells.

Excepted Item 5 does not cover other plant products which can be prepared in a similar way to roasted nuts, such as chick peas, unswollen maize grain (corn nuts), or soya beans. Even if held out as snacks these remain zero-rated as food under general item 1.

Meaning of ‘roasted’

We interpret roasted as meaning subjected to heat until cooked right through. Nuts are sometimes toasted rather than roasted, so that they are browned on the surface but not completely cooked, particularly coconut and nuts such as almond or hazelnut for culinary use. They are not regarded as falling within this item, and are zero-rated.

Peanuts

The liability of peanuts sold for human consumption depends on their degree of preparation:

  • in their shells - zero-rated regardless of preparation;
  • out of their shells:
  1. zero-rated if they have not been roasted or salted; but
  2. standard-rated if they have been roasted or salted.

Where roasted peanuts are included in mixtures with zero-rated items such as dried fruit, the rules in section VFOOD7400 should be applied to determine the liability of the mixture.

Peanuts packaged as pet food or food for wild birds should be considered under the terms of Excepted item 6 of Group 1.

Pistachios

Pistachio nuts occupy an anomalous position under excepted group 5, in that when held out as a snack they are almost always sold in their shells. Because of the way the law is worded, they are zero-rated in this form, even though they compete in the same market as other snack nut products that have been shelled and are standard-rated.

Nuts for use in baking

Nuts that are sold as baking or cooking ingredients, such as almonds, hazelnuts, or coconut, either raw or toasted, and are generally packed differently from nuts sold as a snack. They are zero-rated as general food items.