VQOTW: The sale of dog food

My client has set up a new business selling frozen dog foods and other dog related products. Some of the frozen meat is just minced and wrapped in plain bio-degradable casing; another product, also wrapped, is minced and cooked. The sale of the dog meat has been treated as a zero-rated supply, but I am not sure the client has treated this correctly.

Dog food can be a problematic area. VAT Act 1994 Schedule 8 Group 1 allows zero rating for animal feeding stuffs but excludes pet food that is canned, packaged or prepared.

  • Canned – Pet food that is preserved or supplied in a sealed can.
  • Packaged – Pre-packed for retail sale in any sealed bag, carton or other container of 12.5 kg or less.

(If the produce has been put in a plain paper or polyethene bag then this is not packaged.)

  • Prepared – Animal feed that has been specially mixed or processed for pet consumption. (This includes cereal or seed mixes specifically for pet species.)

More details on canned, packaged or prepared can be found in HMRC Manual VFOOD8580 https://www.gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/vat-food/vfood8580.

However, fresh, frozen or chilled meat products should not be classed as pet food simply because they are for feeding dogs even if they are packaged. To be standard rated as pet food they have also to be prepared in such a way as to specialise them to pets (i.e., more than mincing and dicing) or be held out for sale specifically for pet dogs.

As the law excludes pet foods from zero rating the other question that has arisen is whether dogs are always pets, and those cases that have been heard in tribunal have decided that not all dogs are pets. Some working dogs such as racing greyhounds require a very specialised diet but other working dogs such as sheep dogs may just require greater quantities rather than special food.

Where a dog food product is held out for sale specifically for pet dogs or prepared in a way that specialises it for the pet market this will be standard rated.

Where dog food products are formulated and marketed for working dogs only, with no indication that they are also suitable for pets these can be zero rated.

Zero rating can also be applied to food for racing greyhounds. However, the complete food must meet the following conditions:

  • provides all the required elements for a balanced diet for the dog without having to be mixed with any other food (other than water); and
  • is specifically held out for sale for racing greyhounds; and
  • can be demonstrated that the product is designed specifically to meet the special nutritional requirements of racing greyhounds.

More details on Food for working dogs and racing greyhounds can be found in HMRC Manual VFOOD8560 https://www.gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/vat-food/vfood8560 and in VAT Notice 701/15 https://www.gov.uk/guidance/animals-and-animal-food-notice-70115#food-for-animals.

As long as it isn’t held out as specifically for pets, your client’s supplies of frozen minced meat would be zero rated, but the cooked product would be standard rated as pet food.


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VAT Advisor
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Arti has worked in VAT since 2004 spending 11 years with HMRC. During her time in the department she was a visiting officer, a business records check officer providing educational visits and spent the last three years on the Alcohol Fraud team where she gained a good understanding of civil penalties and appeals. In addition she was an IT specialist providing support to colleagues and an associate trainer delivering VAT and Penalties training.

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