• Issue 21

    Vitamins and minerals

    Are vitamins and minerals considered to be food?

    For source of ATO view, refer to the Detailed food list.

    Section 38-2 of the GST Act states that a supply of food is GST-free. 'Food' is defined in subsection 38-4(1) of the GST Act and includes:

    '(a) food for human consumption (whether or not requiring processing or treatment);
    (b) ingredients for food for human consumption;...
    (e) goods to be mixed with or added to food for human consumption (including condiments, spices, seasonings, sweetening agents or flavourings);...'

    In order to determine the correct classification of vitamins and minerals, it is first necessary to consider whether they satisfy the definition of food contained in subsection 38-4(1) of the GST Act.

    Although 'food' as referred to in subsection 38-4(1) is not further defined in the GST Act, it will be taken to have its ordinary meaning. The Macquarie Dictionary 3rd Edition ('the dictionary') defines 'food' as 'what is eaten, or taken into the body for nourishment...'.

    However, not all substances that provide nourishment will satisfy the definition of food in the GST Act.

    Vitamins and minerals are supplied in various forms:

    • capsule
    • caplet, or
    • tablet

    Unlike food, vitamins and minerals are ‘taken’, not eaten. Instructions are often provided with the product including a recommended dosage and suggesting that the product be taken at certain times of the day, either on an empty stomach or with food or a beverage, such as water or juice. Often these products are taken for therapeutic or medicinal reasons, or to prevent or compensate for a nutritional deficiency.

    Vitamins and minerals are commonly taken by swallowing or in some instances may be added to food.

    It is considered that the essential character of vitamins and minerals is not that of food, but that of a supplement. Therefore, for GST purposes, vitamins and minerals are not considered to be food for human consumption under paragraph 38-4(1)(a) of the GST Act.

    Support for this view can be found in the Chairman's comments in Grosvenor Commodities (LON/90/1805X) No 7221; [1992] BVC 761, where royal jelly capsules were not considered to be food. The Chairman said:

    "the capsules do not satisfy hunger ... they do not look like food, taste like food or fill the stomach like food. In my mind the capsules are clearly not food."

    Example

    Multivitamin tablets are not considered to be food for human consumption for GST purposes. As a result, they are subject to GST.

    End of example
      Last modified: 05 Aug 2016QC 16451