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14 January 2022 General

Plastics Tax & Cling Film

HMRC continues to bat away our argument that items used in food preparation are not packaging but essential tools needed in commercial kitchens. As announced in last week’s Digest, this has resulted in an exemption for piping bags but HMRC continues to insist pan liners and sous vide bags are packaging.

HMRC claims: "The commercial kitchen is part of the supply chain to the user or consumer. The definition of a packaging component is: 'a product that is designed to be suitable for use, whether alone or in combination with other products, in the containment, protection, handling, delivery or presentation of goods at any stage in the supply chain of the goods from the producer of the goods to the user or consumer'. As this does not mention transport, a product does not need to be used to move the goods through the supply chain to meet this definition and be considered packaging. With regard to sous vide bags, these meet this definition and we view these as comparable to other vacuum bags used to contain food in the supply chain, which are also treated as packaging.”

Note that whilst sous vide bags will be taxed, 'boil in the bag' used for foods, will not. When the tax was first considered, we strongly lobbied for cling film to be exempt, without success. A recent discussion with an FPA member revealed a desire to mount another challenge on cling film. We agree it is worth doing this, but at a level higher than HMRC. We would therefore like to hear from other members producing, marketing, using and distributing cling film, to confirm if such an appeal has support. At the time we argued cling film was a necessary tool in reducing food waste as well as the vital role it has in commercial kitchens.

If we consider a commercial kitchen to be a factory (with all due respect to chefs) then perhaps the ruling on these items means a range of predominantly plastic items used in manufacturing processes, which the consumer never sees, also fall into scope. As we have frequently stated, we do not believe the original intention was to tax essential production tools of the trade.

We strongly believe we should lobby again for exemptions for cling film, pan liners, freezer bags and sous vide bags but at a level beyond a body that may not have the authority to say ’yes’. Please let Martin know if you would like to join this action.