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Laois business speaks out on VAT increases on food supplements

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A Portlaoise business has expressed their concerns over the proposed 23 percent increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) on all food supplements.

The Fruit N Nut Place in Lyster Square have began a petition which owner Bernadette Cass says has been signed by, ‘hundreds of concerned people’.

If implemented, food supplements will go from having 0 percent tax to 23 percent from March 1, 2019.

This would be a tax on vitamins, minerals, fish oils and probiotics, among others.

Speaking to LaoisToday, Ms Cass says that this would disasterous not only for businesses like hers, but for people depending on these supplements.

“People need supplements like these to keep them out of hospital,” said Ms Cass.

She spoke about the fact that people could still by ‘bags of sugar’ with no tax on them, but said that people are being taxed for wanting to be healthy.

“You can bag of sugar in the supermarket with zero percent VAT. The sugar tax brought in last year only applies to fizzy drinks.

“The sugar you buy will have no VAT, but the food supplement to look after your health will have 23 percent VAT,” she said.

Ms Cass added that she will be putting flyers through Minister for Justice and Equality and Laois TD Charlie Flanagan’s office to try gather ministerial support.

“The HSE asks women who could become pregnant to take Folic Acid. They also recommend Vitamin D for everyone from babies to the elderly.

Ms Cass says the purposed measure will also hurt local businesses as people could opt to buy their supplements online from the UK as a cheaper option.

She believes that the Minister of Finance Paschal Donohoe, ‘chose not to engage’ with the Revenue Commissioners on the proposed tax raise.

Echoing Ms Cass’s statements were local election candidate for the Griaguecullen-Portarlington municipal area Eoin Barry and TD Fiona O’Loughlin.

Local Labour representative Barry has called on a halt the 23 percent VAT increase on food supplements.

Barry said: “The Vitamin Tax will cause steep price rises for those who rely on vitamin, mineral and food supplements.

“There was no debate during the Budget and the Finance Bill about this.

“A zero percent tax rate has applied to vitamins, minerals and fish oil supplements since 1972 so this is a major change and one that will have significant impact on those that can least afford it.

“The Minister for Finance is meant to be the policy maker but he appears to blaming Revenue for this, and washing his hands of responsibility for this decision.

“Those who will pay most are the elderly, those with disabilities and those who are ill. It is simply unacceptable to do this to people who are trying to improve their health.

“Our public health policies should help people when they make sensible decisions about their health. It is incredible that from March 1 we will have a situation where fast food will be taxed at only 13.5 percent while food supplements will be at 23 percent.

“This tax hike will have a huge impact on small health food and independent retailers in Laois. The Revenue has re-interpreted the treatment of food supplements including vitamins, minerals and fish oils for VAT purposes.

“Instead of making legislative changes in the Finance Bill where Deputies could have had an input the Minister has used the Revenue to make the change.

“Hundreds of thousands of people across the country must take food supplements for a variety of health reasons. This tax increase is causing major disquiet for people who rely on these products and should be scrapped.”

TD O’Loughlin said, “To implement such increases will penalize people who make positive choices in looking after their health and will drastically increase those products.

“I’m concerned that this may compromise spending in this area and will impact on the businesses specializing in the area of supplements.

“Hundreds of thousands of people across the country are dependent on taking vitamins daily as part of their daily regime.

The Kildare-South TD concluded: “There has been a zero-VAT rating on these products since 1972 and now the VAT is going up drastically. I believe these changes should be halted until a full review can take place as part of the Tax Strategy Papers due to be published in the summer.

“Minister Donohoe needs to urgently engage with Revenue on this issue and ensure that no change is made until the issue is more comprehensively analyzed as part of an expert review later in the year.”

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