The Tax Appeals Commission (TAC) has rejected a claim by an online pet food firm that it should not be liable for VAT on its meat-based pet food products as they are fit for human consumption.
In dismissing the online pet food firm’s claim that it should pay zero VAT on its meat-based products, appeal commissioner, Andrew Feighery stated that he did not agree with the firm’s contention that the meat supplied by them is of a kind fit for human consumption.
As part of his 11-page ruling on the company’s VAT appeal to the TAC, Feighery found that “it is unlikely that a typical consumer would order food for their personal consumption from an online pet food store regardless of the alleged nutritional benefits”.
The commissioner stated that this was demonstrated by the online pet food firm’s failure to produce any evidence indicating human consumption of their product.
Pet food tax appeal
Andrew Feighery found that the firm’s raw meat-based product, biologically appropriate raw food (BARF), is a pet food and should be taxed as such.
He said that it was not contested by the online pet food firm during the hearing that the BARF product was exclusively marketed and sold on its pet food website and that the ultimate consumers of the product were most likely cats and dogs.
The dispute between the unnamed pet-food firm and Revenue centered on a Revenue VAT assessment of €20,857 from November/December 2015 to March/April 2017.
The firm advocates the feeding to animals, primarily dogs and cats, of raw meats, known as ‘BARF’ and supplies a combination of traditional pet foods and BARF to its customers.
The firm properly charged VAT at the standard rate on its supply of traditional pet foods but argued that as its BARF product was made exclusively from meat “fit for human consumption”, that it should be entitled to zero-rate such supplies.
The firm told the commissioner that the primary meats forming the ingredients of BARF consisted of beef, chicken, tripe, whole rabbit, duck, venison, offal – chiefly liver and heart – and sprat.
The company informed the commission during the hearing that they pride themselves on providing the product fresh and do not subject the ingredients to any form of treatment other than mixing, mincing or freezing it.
The company submitted that since the ingredients of BARF are identical to those which can be purchased in a butcher’s shop, it should be afforded the same treatment for VAT purposes.
The company argued that it was irrelevant to the Revenue case that it operated as a pet store or indeed that the consumers of its product were supposedly animals.
Revenue was of the view that the BARF product is a pet food and as such is liable to the standard rate of VAT on its sale.
Revenue further argued that the food was clearly targeted as pet food for the consumption by pets, and as such, fell foul to the exclusion from zero rating.
Revenue further argued that while the online food firm distinguished between traditional dog and cat feeds and their BARF product “because they think that one is better than the other from a nutritional point of view, this did not alter the fact that the supplied product was a pet food”.
In support of his findings that the firm is liable to VAT on all its pet food products, Feighery pointed out that the firm was registered as a wholesaler of meats by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine but did not have their business registered with the Health Service Executive (HSE), Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) or similar regulatory bodies.
The appeal commissioner also pointed out that there were no labels on the supplied product indicating the origin of the supplied meats, best before dates and similar required consumer information.