VAT shall not go on bread alone
And last week, George Osborne announced: "Hot takeaway food on high streets has been charged VAT for more than 20 years; but some new hot takeaway products in supermarkets are not... We're publishing our plans today to remove loopholes and anomalies..." Now, this has the Cornish up in arms, for their
Which brings us to bread - the staple foodstuff of life. If it be purchased warm from the bakery, should it not now be subject to VAT? Or may it now only be sold VAT-free when cool? This is rather an important consideration, for under those same 'European rules', once VAT has been levied on a product, it cannot be removed: 'ever closer union' prohibits re-zero-rating and demands incremental tax harmonisation throughout the Union. And so the rate of VAT on a Cornish pasty purchased in Penzance must (eventually) be identical to the rate of VAT on a Cornish pasty purchased in, err... Marbella, or wherever else on the Coast del Sol they might happen to be on sale.
But, as the Daily Mail highlights, there is something of a disagreement over precisely what constitutes 'bread'. If it be 'basic food', then the pasty in Cornwall should also be exempt. And what of ethnic breads - naan, puri or chapati, for example? Under equality legislation, the Government is now obliged to carry out an assessment of every one of its policies to ensure that no protected minority will be unfairly discriminated against. Surely, if hot 'white bread' is VAT-free, so must all the Asian breads be. Not to mention Chinese breads like mantou. And what about pizza? It is usually served hot, but may certainly be eaten cold, and is constructed upon a base of bread. If 'British' bread (ie your average leavened Hovis-looking thing) is to remain VAT free, His Grace is persuaded that there might be merit in a class action brought against HM Government by the Indians, Pakistanis, Greeks, Italians and Chinese who now reside in the UK, for it is surely illegal to discriminate against their breads.
Which brings His Grace to the Eucharist. We are aware that wine has been subject to VAT since 1st April 1973, when the tax was introduced to the UK. But what of communion wafers under George Osborne's proposals? Are they not a 'loophole and anomaly'? Why should the religious have access to VAT-free bread, while the heathen get stung for an additional 20 per cent? Food and drink (unfermented) for religious and sacramental use has always been zero-rated, and this includes communion wafers used in the celebration of the Eucharist. But what of (say) the Baptists who tend to use your more Hovis-looking thing? Is this to remain VAT free while the consecrated host of the Roman Catholics is taxed by the state? Or is it only when transubstantiated above the ambient air temperature to the warm body temperature of Our Lord?