Fish friers take on government in VAT fight Published: 18 November, 2011
BRITAIN’S fish and chip shop owners are gearing up for a VAT fight which could have a profound impact on their businesses and the fish trade in general.
And, if successful, they may well have a German hot dog seller called Herr Bog to thank. The National Federation of Fish Friers has teamed up with KPMG, the global tax and accountancy group, to try to get the 20 per cent VAT rate on takeaway fish and chips removed. If a member of the public buys fish and chips from their local corner shop they pay the VAT, but if they get the same combination from a hot food counter in a supermarket the purchase is VAT free. Enter hot dog seller Manfred Bog from Hanover in Germany – back in 1985 he went to the European Court of Justice arguing that since his principal offer to his customers was food rather than a service, the VAT charged on his hot dogs should be reduced to Germany’s lower rate of five per cent. He won the case and became the toast of frankfurter stand owners from Hamburg to Munich. The National Federation of Fish Friers believes its members are in an identical position. VAT was brought in as an EU harmonisation measure. The Federation president Gregg Howard has said he is prepared to take the case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, if necessary. A spokesman for the Federation told Fishupdate that the first step will be for members to claim a VAT rebate which they expected to be turned down by HMRC, the UK tax authority. He said the Federation had linked up with KPMG because of their expertise in tax issues and also because its German branch had helped Herr Bog with his fight.If the Federation wins it could knock around £1 off fish and chips, boost the trade and stimulate the sale of fish. But it cautioned that it could take years for the final outcome.