Prepared meals are taxable. A ‘prepared meal’ is a food that meets the following three conditions:
- it directly competes with takeaways and restaurants
- it needs refrigeration or freezing for storage
- it is marketed as a prepared meal but is not soup.
Examples of prepared meals include:
- curry and rice dishes, mornays and similar dishes sold cold that only need reheating to be ready for eating
- fresh or frozen lasagne
- cooked pasta dishes sold complete with sauce
- frozen TV dinners
- fresh or frozen complete meals (for example, a single serve of a roast dinner, including vegetables or a low fat dietary meal).
All these meals, except sushi, only need reheating for them to be ready to eat. Sushi is ready to eat when it is prepared even though part of it is raw. It does not matter whether prepared meals are supplied hot or cold, or need cooking or reheating.
Salads, including pasta, rice, coleslaw, meat, seafood and green salad, sold from salad bars at supermarkets in either the delicatessen section or from a self-serve bar, are GST-free only if they are not marketed as prepared meals.
Examples of food items that are not prepared meals include:
- frozen vegetables
- kebabs (uncooked skewered meat)
- marinated meats and stir-fries
- uncooked pasta products
- fish fingers
- baby food, baked beans, spaghetti and Irish stews that do not require refrigeration or freezing.
Uncooked pasta products are not prepared meals. Canned baby food, baked beans and spaghetti are not prepared meals as they do not need refrigeration or freezing (until opened) for their storage.
When working out whether food is a prepared meal, consider:
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- how the goods are promoted or advertised
- the name, price, labelling, instructions, packaging and placement of the goods in the store.
Example: Prepared meals
A supermarket sells lasagne in a box from the frozen food section. The instructions on the box say that the product can be reheated by oven baking or microwave.
The lasagne is a prepared meal as the product only needs heating, before serving.
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