VAT: A Guide for Poor People to Exploit the System

You’re poor and the government have increased the VAT rate by 2.5% and you’re wondering how you’ll cope. Well, don’t worry. Here’s an easy guide on how to exploit the VAT system.

The secret that the government wants to keep from you is that not all goods actually have VAT on them. There are numerous loopholes to the system which the middle classes have been exploiting for years:

1. Almost all the raw food (meat, vegetables, cereals, fruit and the like) in your supermarket doesn’t have any VAT on it. This food can be bought and then cooked in an oven (or microwave) to provide meals for you and your family. – Please note, there are certain items which do attract VAT: ice cream, crisps, sweets, roasted and salted nuts, and alcoholic beverages – almost everything, in fact, that you usually purchase in the supermarket (although ready meals are also zero-rated).

2. Most chocolate attracts standard-rate VAT, however there are some exceptions. Marshmallow tea-cakes are zero-rated, as are confectioneries made from cereals and chocolate, chocolate chip biscuits, bourbons and jaffa cakes. Hundreds and thousands are also zero-rated.

3. Unfortunately all alcohol (except alcoholic jellies) has VAT, as do all canned drinks. To avoid VAT, you can instead drink milk, tea, cocoa, coffee or slimming drinks. Water also is non-VATable (unless you buy it in bottles), as are some sports energy drinks.

4. Pet food has VAT on it, as do pets themselves. Consider exchanging your pit-bull for a sheep or a rabbit, neither of which are VATable.

5. Cake is zero-rated. You can eat cake.

6. Plants and seeds used for growing your own food are zero-rated. This may not be suitable for those living in a council estate.

7. Gambling is zero-rated. You can continue wasting your benefits on it.

8. Electricity and gas are charged at 5%, and will not be affected by the budget.

9. While cars are VATable, there are various other vehicles which do not attract VAT: caravans, aeroplanes (both civil and military), airships, helicopters and houseboats. Experiment with different forms of transport.

10. Most consumer goods have VAT on them. This will include those things which currently absorb most of your time: Playstations, XBoxes, PCs, HD TVs, 3D TVs, stereos etc. Try varying your leisure activities. Books and newspapers, for instance, do not have VAT on them. You could buy these and sit quietly and read them.

11. And, if all else fails, burials and cremations do not attract VAT.

WARNING: Following these guidelines may lead to improvement.


I posted this on Polly Toynbee’s budgetry column on CiF. It’s only the second comment I’ve ever had removed.

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2 thoughts on “VAT: A Guide for Poor People to Exploit the System

  1. That’s funny advice, obooki – and surprisingly useful, for its relaxed sarcasm. There’s plenty of less artful, more aggressive hostility that stays on the Guardian’s threads – what the hell.

  2. I was surprised it was removed: I only went back to check how many “recommend”s I’d got. I think the mods on CiF (where I don’t often go) are perhaps a little more draconian / less civilised than on the books pages. – I can only assume it was either done a) because it was off-topic; or b) because it was an incitement to contempt of the poor (but hardly more so than many Tory-style posts which seemed to me often unrelieved by irony). On a), there was at the back of my mind the notion of trying to question whether VAT is a tax borne more by the poor than by the rich, when it’s essentially a tax on luxury and leisure items.

    Besides, I like the VAT rules: they’re satisfyingly puritan and arcane.

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