New 23% VAT will make supplements 'hard to afford'

Story by Adrian Cusack

Thursday, 7th February, 2019 3:19pm

New 23% VAT will make supplements 'hard to afford'

Nutritional supplements like these are set to attract a new 23% VAT rate

An Athlone resident has said the Government's planned introduction of a 23% VAT rate on food supplements, including vitamins and minerals, will make them more difficult for her to afford.

Since 1972, vitamins and supplements have attracted a 0% VAT rate, but that is due to change from March 1.

Áine O'Beirne said she currently takes a number of supplements. "As someone that lives with a number of health conditions, including anxiety and depression, mental and physical health requires daily work," she said.

"I am trained in WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) and have a daily maintenance plan. That includes making  food shopping, nutrition and cooking a key part of my week. Taking supplements is also a part of what I do to try to heal and stay healthy.  

"EPA in fish oil can help with depression, so I take a Krill oil supplement which includes Vitamin D3 and Choline. B vitamins help with stress.

"I struggle with sleep. Magnesium can help with insomnia. I notice an improvement in my sleep while on supplements. I'm less likely to get colds or the flu and have more energy. I try to support local businesses and get many of my supplements from Susan in Au Naturel (in Athlone)."

Áine said the 23% VAT rate would end up costing her at least an additional €7 or €8 a month, and would make it much more difficult for her to be able to afford these and other supplements.

"Taking personal responsibility for my health is important to me and keeps me away from the busy GP surgery and hospital.

"Our health service is already overstretched. I feel this VAT will lead to more public expenditure in health and will be counterproductive," she said.

Health stores have launched a campaign in opposition to the 23% tax increase and at the time of writing an online petition opposing the change had been signed by more than 26,000 people.

In the Dáil recently, Labour leader Brendan Howlin accused the Government of "sneaking in" the 23% increase, as it was not provided for in the Budget 2019 legislation.

Retail Excellence, Ireland’s largest retail industry representative body, is also calling on the Government to review the proposed VAT hike on vitamins, minerals, probiotics and fish oils. 

David Fitzsimons, the Group CEO of Retail Excellence, said the organisation "has been working on this with, and on behalf of, our members across the country since we first became aware of the issue late last year. This move will have a huge knock-on effect for retailers, pharmacies and particularly small, independent, family run stores who have been the mainstay of high streets up and down the country for decades.

"The shock of a massive VAT hike of 23% on these products has the potential to cause hundreds of job losses across Ireland at a time when the prospect of a crash-out Brexit and the associated negative impact that will have on the Irish economy is all the more real."

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