Sugar tax?

The notion of a sugar tax has undoubtedly had impact. But how feasible is such a tax, and what effect would it have? Lawyer Jessica Burt recently wrote a Guardian article A sugar tax won’t work. And here’s why.

Following on from our second report on food and the city economy Tensions, trade-offs and opportunities, I’ve been thinking about two quantitative aspects of the food and drink sector that could possibly illuminate a route to a working sugar tax.

The first aspect is to take Defra’s annual Family Food Survey, and de-couple the UK statistics on food purchases from drinks purchases.

The second is to categorise the purchasing statistics for both food and drink according to whether or not the products are VAT-exempt or VAT-rated.

Although there anomalies, in essence, food ands drink is VAT-exempt, but those ‘food’ and ‘drink’ products that have zero or close to zero nutritional value carry the standard-rate VAT. These latter products include most beverages (milk being an obvious exemption), confectionery, biscuits and snacks.

In collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), we’re carrying out such an analysis this month. It will be very interesting to see what it shows — watch this space.

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