Government tax plans “roasted”

Poultry bosses have joined forces with Morrisons in a bid to fight government plans to introduce a tax on the “Great British Roast”.

From the beginning of October, the government will add VAT to the sale of whole rotisserie chickens. The British Poultry Council, along with Morrisons, claimed the tax will hit poorer families, who use rotisserie chickens in their family meals, often forming the basis of the traditional Sunday roast.

The two organisations have now launched a ‘Don’t Tax Our Roast’ campaign in a bid to change government plans. A nationwide petition has been launched, and the campaign will be heavily promoted in Morrisons’ stores.

The tax will be introduced through proposals unveiled in the March budget to add VAT to all food that is sold hot, classifying it as a take-away food.

However, Morrisons and the BPC said that research showed people did not purchase whole rotisserie chicken in the same way as they would a take-away meal, with four in five Morrisons’ shoppers buying the product to eat later as part of a main meal.

The government VAT plans initially caused a backlash in the bakery world, with a campaign launched against the so-called ‘pasty tax’. That resulted in the policy being revised to allow hot food left on the shelf to cool down to have a 0% VAT rate.

However, that revision has not solved the problem for rotisserie chickens, which, for food safety reasons, cannot be left to cool down for a prolonged period in the same way.

Jamie Winter, fresh food director at Morrisons, said: “It’s unfair to take a ‘catch-all’ approach without accepting that there will almost always be important exceptions. The simple fact is that our customers buy their whole rotisserie chicken as part of their weekly shop, not as a takeaway.  Our customers tell us that they simply cannot pay more in these difficult times. That’s why we’re helping them to fight this unfair tax on the Great British Roast.”

Peter Bradnock of the British Poultry Council said: “This 20% tax hike in the price of Red Tractor chicken from British farms bought freshly-cooked in the supermarkets will hit shoppers and result in lost production for farmers. It is a sad irony that this 20% VAT tax will not apply to imports of already-cooked chicken meat coming from countries like Thailand, and our government is now making it even harder for British chicken farmers to compete on our own markets.”

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