Friday 21 October 2016

Ten ways to keep the taxman's claws out of your shopping and free time

Published 27/09/2015 | 02:30

How to keep the taxman's claws out of your shopping and free time
How to keep the taxman's claws out of your shopping and free time

Irish people pay as much as one in five euro to the taxman every time they go shopping or take up a hobby. This is down to our Value Added Tax (VAT) rate, which, at 23pc, is above the international average - and is in fact the eighth-highest in the world.

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"VAT is designed to nab the consumer when they go into a shop," said Breen Cassidy, partner in indirect taxes with Ernst & Young. "But you can make savings around the anomalies of VAT."

There are three rates of VAT - the standard 23pc and two lower rates of 13.5pc and 9pc. Some things are also exempt from VAT, so restricting your purchases to such VAT-free goods could make your life a lot cheaper. Here are 10 ways to chop your VAT bill.


You don't pay any VAT on clothes that are labelled, marked or marketed as being for children under 11 years of age. After that, you're hit for 23pc VAT. So if your child has a smaller build than average, take advantage of that - don't be tempted to buy 11-year-old clothes for your 10-year-old if they'll still fit into clothes for their age. Likewise, if your 11-year-old is petite enough to fit into clothes for a 10-year-old, stick to the younger size.


"You'll pay no VAT on paper books - but 23pc VAT on Kindle books because the Kindle is an electronic service," said Mr Cassidy.

"The European Commission is looking at the issue of variance in VAT rates between tangibles and online - and is planning to publish proposals on this late next year."

The zero rate of VAT applies to printed books and booklets, including atlases. It also covers children's picture, drawing and colouring books.

Bear in mind that you might still pay less for a Kindle book than a paperback - even if the VAT is higher for the Kindle.


Golf-club green fees have been exempt from VAT since last March - as long as the fees are for a member-owned golf club. The exemption applies to green fees, competition fees and membership fees.

These fees had previously attracted a VAT rate of 9pc. You'll pay 23pc VAT for dance lessons - unless you're taking ballet as ballet lessons are exempt from VAT.

You'll pay 23pc VAT on adult swimming lessons - but lessons for a pre-school or school-going child are VAT-free.


You'll pay 9pc VAT on admission to your local art gallery or museum (unless it's free in, of course). Head to your local amusement arcade, however, and you'll pay 23pc VAT on video games and rollercoaster rides. (VAT on children's rides is lower).


Next time you order a meal in a hotel, order fruit juice instead of bottled water. You pay 23pc VAT on any alcohol, soft drinks or bottled waters you have with a meal - but 9pc VAT on fruit juice.


You don't pay any VAT on flour, eggs, sugar, butter and buttermilk - the basic ingredients for scones. Buy scones in your local cafe, however, and you'll typically pay 13.5pc VAT.

Indeed, you'll pay 13.5 per cent VAT on most of the cakes and desserts you pick up in your local supermarket or bakery.

So buy the ingredients for your favourite dessert and get your baking hat on - you'll save a small fortune on VAT.


Choose your biscuits and snacks carefully. You'll pay 23pc VAT on chocolate-covered biscuits, 13.5pc VAT on plain biscuits - and no VAT at all on baby biscuits.

A bag of microwave popcorn doesn't attract VAT because, according to the Revenue Commissioners, "it is not suitable for human consumption without further preparation". You'll pay 23pc VAT, however, on a bag of ready-to-eat popcorn.


You can avoid Ireland's high VAT by ordering online from a country where the VAT rates are low. However, the item can't be worth more than €22 - otherwise, you usually have to pay 23pc VAT on the full value of the item when it comes into the country (from outside the eurozone).


You don't pay any VAT on cold food, such as a sandwich - or frozen food such as a frozen pizza. However, once that food is heated up, you'll pay 9pc VAT. So instead of picking up a pizza in your local takeaway, buy it frozen in your supermarket - and heat it up at home.


The Canary Islands, Japan and Switzerland have some of the lowest VAT rates in the world. Okay, so you're unlikely to move country just to avoid the VAT here - but you never know.

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