How to account for VAT in Takeaway Food Business: Restaurants, Bar or Cafe

How to charge and account for VAT on takeaway food business, chicken or kebab shop, fish and chips, eatery or restaurant, bar or cafe VAT accounting

For businesses that are runny a cafe, restaurant, bar, chicken shop, eatery or just a bar and cafe, accounting for the regular take away business VAT charge can be a nightmare. In this post we make it simple and understandable on how to account for and charge VAT on takeaway food business.

If you’re running a restaurant, bar or cafe, and regularly sell takeaway food, you will need to be up to speed on how to charge VAT on TakeAway Food.

We are going to be running a series of blogs on issues for indie food businesses, so do get in touch if there’s a particular topic or issue you’d like help with, or would like us to feature your business as a case scenario.

There is very detailed guidance on VAT on takeaway food from HMRC, which you can read here, but make sure you have a few hours spare, and have a degree in HMRC jargon!

Alternatively, read on for a lighter guide from My Web Accountants:

So firstly, let’s get a few things straight about VAT on TakeAway Food:

Look away now if your business is not registered for VAT. You don’t need to worry about VAT at all at the moment. If you’d like a chat about VAT and whether you should be registered, give us a ring or get in touch by email.

If you don’t sell takeaway food, you can also look away now, or even still just walk away!  If you’re thinking about it, then do read on, as it may affect your decision!

What counts as takeaway food?

HMRC’s definition is any food or drink purchased to consume off the premises: Keyword here is “consumed off the premises”.

If You have premises and sell takeaway food

If you serve food and drink on the premises, and consumed on the premises (not to take away) then you have to charge VAT on everything, quite simple.

Examples of premises are:

  • An entire restaurant business
  • An area with tables and chairs in a retail complex for the use of customers only
  • An outdoor area with tables and chairs for the use of customers only
  • Seating area in a supermarket, providing food and drink
  • A stall in a sports stadium, amusement park etc with facilities for use of customers to eat there

Basically any area with tables and chairs specifically for the use of your customers.

If in doubt, check with us by dropping a message or phone up HMRC.

The easy bits of accounting for VAT in Takeaway business:

Hot take away food is most likely to be standard rated for VAT (the current standard rate is 20%) but there are certain tests (more below).

  • Hot takeaway drinks are standard rated (20% VAT).
  • Cold take away food and drink is usually zero rated for VAT. Unless it’s usually standard rated (this includes things like crisps, sweets, bottled water etc).
  • Bottled water is standard rated! Crazy but true!

Tests for 20% VAT on hot takeaway food

OK so this is the not so fun bit, and I’d strongly suggest you get some advice on this.  The rules are quite long-winded, but here’s the straightforward bits.

Hot food is 20% VAT if one or more of the 5 following tests are met:

  1. It’s been heated for the purposes of enabling it to be consumed hot
  2. It’s been heated to order
  3. It’s been kept hot after being heated
  4. It’s provided to a customer in packaging that retains heat or in any other packaging that is specifically designed for hot food
  5. It’s advertised or marketed in a way that indicates that it’s supplied hot

So for example, if it’s hot because you’ve just baked it (think sausage rolls, muffins etc) but usually served cold it will be zero rated.

If you just don’t get accounting for VAT in takeaway business:

Well, It’s not straightforward, is it?  Our suggestion would be to apply each of the tests above to your specific takeaway menu, then it will make more sense.

For instance – hot baked potato: think through the 5 tests above, do you think you could say yes to more than one of them?  I think you could say yes to all 5 tests for a baked potato so it is a standard 20% VAT on hot baked potato.

OK how on earth do I make sure I am charging the right VAT rate for a takeaway business?

To get it right you need to make sure:

a) you’re charging the right amount to your customer and

b) you’re declaring the right amount on your VAT return

We’d always recommending automating this bit, and using EPOS software that links into your accounting software (we love Xero by the way). It would be a nightmare to try to calculate and record every sale as you made it, and would massively slow down your serving times.

How do I get my EPOS/till system to record the correct price and VAT?

Firstly you can add all of the food and drink products that you sell into your EPOS, adding the correct VAT rate where you know it.  And as rule of thumb, – do your research or get advice on the correct VAT rates before entering all your products into your software!

The best EPOS software will allow you to put different prices for products that you serve on the premises or takeaway. That way you can choose the correct one when you sell it.

If your EPOS software doesn’t have a feature to add a different price you will have to add a separate product for each takeaway item, with the correct price and VAT.

At the end of each day, your EPOS will send the correct sales and VAT information to your accounting software, so that this information is ready and waiting on your next VAT return. Voila.

And what are the best EPOS systems for selling takeaway food and account for VAT?

EPOS solutions that offer separate takeaway prices include Kounta, Nobly and IntelligentPOS. We also love iZettle which has a great EPOS solution, and ideal for hospitality businesses.

So there  you have it, you can now almost account for VAT when you sell takeaway food. Remember you can always hire us to take care of the accounting for you, at very affordable rates, no binding contracts, accountants that are available on pay as you go. Just drop us a message below and we will get back in touch with you.

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