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  • Taxable food

    The following foods are taxable:

    See also:

    Pet food

    Pet food is taxable. Any food labelled or specified for animals is not 'food' under GST law, as it is not for human consumption.

    Prepared meals

    Prepared meals are taxable. A ‘prepared meal’ is a food that:

    • directly competes with take-aways and restaurants
    • needs refrigeration or freezing for storage, and
    • is marketed as a prepared meal but is not soup (soup is GST-free).

    When working out whether food is a prepared meal, consider:

    • how the goods are promoted or advertised
    • the name, price, labelling, instructions, packaging and placement of the goods in the store.

    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
    • sushi
    • 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
    • raw kebabs (uncooked skewered meat)
    • marinated meats and stir-fries
    • uncooked pasta products
    • fish fingers
    • canned baby food, baked beans, spaghetti and Irish stews that do not require refrigeration or freezing.

    Canned baby food, baked beans and spaghetti are not 'prepared meals' as they do not meet the condition of needing refrigeration or freezing (until opened) for their storage.

    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.

    End of example

    Platters and similar arrangements of food

    Platters and other similar arrangements of food are taxable. Platters can include fruit, vegetable, cheese, cold meats or a mixture of foods.

    A platter is a large shallow dish, commonly oval, for serving food items. Usually a platter or arrangement of food can be uncovered and placed on a table ready for serving (for example, a catering product at a barbeque).

    Example: Gourmet platters

    Susie's Gourmet Foods sells trays of gourmet food to customers for parties and other functions. One of these trays contains an arrangement of antipasto products, including cold meats, sun-dried tomatoes, pickled vegetables, bread sticks, biscuits and other items chosen by the customer. This product is a platter and is taxable.

    However, if Susie sold each of the items in a separate plastic container with a lid and the customer emptied the containers and placed the food on a serving tray, the sale would not be a platter. Susie would work out the GST status of each item individually (for example, the sun-dried tomatoes would be GST-free, the biscuits would be taxable, and so on).

    End of example

    Example: Prepared vegetables - not defined as a platter

    Adam's supermarket sells pumpkin that is chopped into pieces ready for roasting. There are four to six pieces of pumpkin on each plastic tray covered in plastic wrap. This product is not a platter.

    End of example

    Savoury snacks

    Savoury snacks are taxable. Generally, foods that were savoury snacks for wholesale sales tax purposes are also classed as savoury snacks for GST purposes. Some specific points are:

    • caviar and other fish roe products are specifically included as savoury snacks and are taxable
    • seeds and nuts that have been processed or treated by salting, spicing, smoking, roasting or similar processing or treating, are taxable.

    However, raw nuts are GST-free.

    Confectionery

    Confectionery is subject to GST. Confectionery includes food that is marketed as confectionery, such as:

    • chocolate
    • lollies
    • muesli bars
    • glace fruit.

    However, candied peel is not classed as confectionery and is GST-free.

    Hot food

    'Hot food' is defined as food for consumption that has been heated above the surrounding air temperature. Hot and cold food supplied as a single item for consumption away from the premises (such as sausage and onion on a slice of bread) is subject to GST.

    Food you sell while it is still warm because it happens to be freshly cooked is GST-free (unless it falls under another category of taxable food). For example, freshly baked bread is GST-free.

    See also:

    Last modified: 24 May 2017QC 16413