Saturday 23 February 2019

Health supplement VAT hike outstrips tax on fast food burgers

Hands tied: Pashcal Donohoe. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Hands tied: Pashcal Donohoe. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The price of many popular food supplements, vitamins and minerals which people use to ward off winter colds and improve their wellbeing will cost up to €7 more from March.

The Revenue Commissioners will impose 23pc VAT on these items - and health food stores and pharmacies are expected to pass it on.

A zero-VAT rating has been applied to vitamins, minerals and fish-oil supplements such as Omega 3 for the last 47 years.

The new measure is being objected to by health food stores and pharmacists.

The Irish Health Trade Association claims it could threaten 25 businesses with closure and put 1,800 jobs at risk.

It warned it will affect vulnerable people like the elderly who use supplements to strengthen their bones.

And it points out VAT on a fast food burger is just 13.5pc.

Once the new rate comes into effect it will mean the Cleanmarine MenMin caps for menopause support would increase in price from €24.99 to €32.97.

Udo's Choice Ultimate Oil (500ml) will increase from €25.99 to €31.97.

Terranova Nutrition Glucosamine Sulphate (1,000mg) will rise from €15.92 to €19.58.

Nelson's Rescue Remedy - which people use for emotional support - will go up from €12.50 to €15.38.

However, the protein supplements favoured by image-conscious people who work out in the gym won't be affected as they have been subject to VAT for some time.

A spokesman for the Revenue Commissioners said that under the VAT Consolidation Act, the standard rate of 23pc applies to all food supplements which are not foods in the ordinary and everyday meaning of the word.

"Revenue published new guidance on December 27 concerning the rate of VAT that applies to food supplements.

"The new guidance withdraws the concessionary application of the zero rate to certain food supplements, vitamins, minerals and fish oils, provided for in previous guidance," he said.

"These products will be liable at the standard rate from March 1. Products, including folic acid and vitamin products licensed by the Health Products Regulatory Agency will continue to be liable at the zero rate."

Alan Martin, of the Irish Health Trade Association, said: "For the past 40 years food supplements have been sold at the zero rate."

He said the 23pc rate needed to be urgently revisited by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe as it would have a major effect on the old, the elderly and the sick.

"It will push the cost beyond what many people can afford and seriously threaten the viability of health stores and pharmacies who strive to offer this important health service," he said.

"Health stores are at risk as many are small, independent businesses on the main streets of small towns."

Mr Donohoe said the proposed measure arose from "an interpretation of our tax code by the Revenue Commissioners who are, as everyone knows, independent of direction from me.

"I have to accept it."

Irish Independent

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