Bookfinders Ltd v Revenue Commissioners [2020] IESC 60

Sweetbreads are offal. Sweet breads aren’t. Neither a sandwich makes. So [might have] said the Supreme Court in Dublin in a recent case concerning, ahem, the price of bread.

The appellant is a Subway franchisee based in Galway. They contended that, as the principal ingredient in their heated sandwiches was bread, the end-product should be assessed at a 0% VAT rate. Accordingly, the appellant sought a refund of the VAT they had paid in 2014 and 2015.

The Revenue Commissioners refused – contending that their sugar content of 10% meant that it was not actually “bread” under the Value Added Tax Act 1972:  

…‘bread’ means food for human consumption manufactured by baking dough composed exclusively of a mixture of cereal flour and any one or more of the ingredients mentioned in the following subclauses in quantities not exceeding the limitation, if any, specified for each ingredient-

(1) yeast or other leavening or aerating agent, salt, malt extract, milk, water, gluten,

(2) fat, sugar and bread improver, subject to the limitation that the weight of any ingredient specified in this subclause shall not exceed 2 per cent of the weight of flour included in the dough,

(3) dried fruit, subject to the limitation that the weight thereof shall not exceed 10 per cent of the weight of the flour included in the dough,

other than food packaged for sale as a unit (not being a unit designated as containing only food specifically for babies) containing two or more slices, segments, sections or other similar pieces, having a crust over substantially the whole of their outside surfaces, being a crust formed in the course of baking, frying or toasting… 

[emphasis added]

The Supreme Court concluded that for the purposes of the Value Added Tax Act 1972:

[the] bread supplied by Subway in its heated sandwiches has a sugar content of 10% of the weight of the flour included in the dough, and thus exceeds the 2% specified

The appellant’s case was dismissed. Qu’ils mangent de la brioche?  

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By Paul Sullivan FRSA

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