March 29th, 2012
06:17 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – I have a confession to make. I don’t like pasties - the rather dry, pastry-heavy snack causing tax troubles for the British government.

Finance minister George Osborne, in a clamp down on VAT avoidance, has decided the tax should now be charged on hot takeaway food. It was obvious from the moment the proposal was announced there would be problems. Buy a pasty, pie or cake and have it served hot - you pay VAT. Take it cold and you don’t.

While the bakers and pie eaters of Britain may be up in arms, anyone who has studied tax knows that these tricky intricacies are inevitable. They happen all the time, especially since snack taxes have been introduced in the U.S. to help prevent obesity. There are even learned journals and articles on the subject.

One example where the tax failed spectacularly was when California introduced a “snack tax” in the early 1990s to bridge the budget deficit. Within hours, the nonsense of defining what was a snack and what was not became obvious. Popped popcorn was. Unpopped popcorn wasn’t. The Harvard article describes the tax as a “disastrous effort.”

In every country that has tried this, the law descends into farce, throwing up inconsistencies, around the idea of: “What is a snack?” “What is a donut?” “What is bread?” "When is a cake taxable and when is it not?”

In the UK, McVitie’s sued to get their Jaffa Cakes designated as cakes (which would not attract VAT). In the end they won. But not before the tribunal had to consider whether the hard, stale Jaffa Cakes meant it was a cake!

I sympathised with the politician's dilemma. Do nothing and you don’t close your budget deficit. Try to raise more money and you end up looking ridiculous. Voters loathe the apparent lack of common sense. After all, we all know a snack or a cake when we see it, don’t we?

So worry not Mr. Osborne. Your hot food tax will no doubt eventually be abandoned - at some point - when the idiocy of trying to make these distinctions becomes overwhelming. And in the meantime – I for one won’t be paying for those dreadful pasties. Instead I shall have to decide whether I can afford to have that slice of cheese pie hot or cold.

soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. PJs.Cat

    I've never been a fan of Pasties, but all this hubub makes me want to give them another try – all these photos of hot delicious pasties in the papers is great advertising.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    well said.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  3. Parkman

    Yeah Rick, you just like it light, white and powdery. Pasties, when made well, are not dry, not heavy. Just right.

    March 30, 2012 at 6:04 am |
  4. RMSG

    I grew up on pasties. After a hard cold rugby training session,, after having a shower and with dinner still a couple of hours away (I was in boarding school), there was nothing like popping down to the local chippie and getting a hot pasties. I wasn't alone doing that run. More often than not one of the teachers/rugby coaches used to join us.

    March 30, 2012 at 6:24 am |
  5. The Huff

    Absolutely love pies and pastries...especially if they'e made in England...where does Quest get his pies from that his the question!

    March 30, 2012 at 6:48 am |
  6. toadears

    Stinkin' governments. Soon they will be telling us what to eat, when to eat it, and how to eat it. They'll be taxing our poo. Oh wait, they already do! Stinkin' governments.

    March 30, 2012 at 7:02 am |
  7. James

    pasties r terrible and can get crumbs all over the place depending on the quality. Never liked them myself, plus the calories contained r just not worth it.

    March 30, 2012 at 7:06 am |
  8. yes!!

    james is obviously american

    March 30, 2012 at 7:51 am |
  9. .

    couldn't you have written this article without insulting pasties

    March 30, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  10. johnymac60

    For shame! I love pasties. If you happen to get one that is a little dry, season it correctly, add some butter and/or ketchup – yum. When correctly prepared – woo. Pasties are great.

    March 30, 2012 at 7:07 pm |

    well spoken guys.

    March 30, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  12. sameh

    What happens if Joe threw hot water ice

    March 30, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  13. Gonzo

    Edible pasties; Now there's a novel concept. I guess you can make your own out of melted chocolate, but it may not be pleasurable applying a hot liquid to such a sensitive area of the anatomy. Still, I might try it with my wife to add a certain dimension to a strip-tease.

    March 31, 2012 at 7:18 am |
  14. maryam

    this site is very good to learn english for free

    April 1, 2012 at 6:42 am |
  15. rvastag

    I like pie.

    April 1, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  16. Anonymous

    To Charles Murray who appeared on April Fool's day at Fareed Zakaria's GPS show...

    You CLAIM you are making a suggestion to the upper middle class, traditional 2 parent family (mom & dad) that it is not a judgmental nor a preaching comment when you say that cultural phenomenon leading to the "Coming Apart of America' thesis is primarily this problem...YOU ARE MAKING EXACTLY SUCH A BIASED judgment and render yourself as a "fool" among many in this country. For EXACTLY like your GOP brethrens and the religious Christian dominated right winger, WHO ARE YOU to judge people's free choice, whether to be a single parent, to be a libertarian, to be gay or not , to be a Catholic and STILL as a woman to want to do with her body what she wants and to have FREEDOM OF CHOICE, LIBERTY and OUR OWN DEFINITION OF HAPPINESS? THIS is why this country is coming apart. PRECISELY because the foundation of the PROMISE of this country is no longer being honored, YOU FOOL!

    April 1, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  17. jeremy

    Does the world need another international bank?

    April 1, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  18. Intrepid

    This is like Taxing Taco's in Mexico or the USA, warm and hot.

    April 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  19. Carl van Zijll de Jong

    Taxation is for Governance only and to be raised on the individual’s income of people. Therefore, bad governance leads to... bad economy/less income, leads to... less income for the Government, leads to... smaller Government. Smaller Government leads to transparent, effective, and stimulating governing. Everyone should feel the consequences of bad housekeeping. For your information Google “The World Monetary Order”.

    April 5, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  20. rose macaskie

    Rirchard Quest, I wrote last night to accuse you of not asking Legard if so much austerity was not going to far, would not knock the countries that suffered from it into an economic downward spiral as the IMF policies had in Argentina and many other third world countries but you did question another person about the wisdom of too much austerity later so i was wrong to accuse you of not bringing this theme to the fore. Rorse Macaskie Madrid.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  21. rose macaskie

    carl van zijll de jong, you could say anything that less government was more or less tramsperent what ever you wanted to say and lot of people will believe you people believe others who offer no example of the truth of what they say and dont lengthily compare and contraste different eralities of the past if they person who assevers somthing uses good vocabulary.
    The truth is that the well fare state has lead to great riches for all countries that had it and its destruction which has been slow but steady has lead to a pretty disasterous situation, they started eating away at socialist ideas thirty years ago and slowly they have lead us to crisis.
    The reason that the well fare state works is not economical, it is that when you demand of the haves that they put thier wherewithall to work bettering housing and education that is what they dom while when there is no demand on those who can invest to do so in a way that profits their workers they go off and invest in things like diamond mines not in the wel being of their fellow country men, who are often their workers, who earn the money for them and receive a bad deal from their bosses and it is not just becuase when you pressurise those with wherewithall that they use their profits to help house and school those who have nothing to invest, it is that their attention is directed to these problems instead of dissipated towards projects that do very little good to any one.
    Europe had an empire for years before their countries were became rich maybe wealth from mepires was just dissipated increasing the empires, so the wealth that can be obtained from empires does not make the countries with empires rich, so it is not stealing from the third world that made western countries wealthy, it was socialist ideas while they werent taken as far as communism took themm that meant our countries were filled with a wealth of goods, of better houses instreed of hovels, sofas, cars, highways and so on.
    When you look at the people of poor countiries now at how tall and pretty strong most of the people from them look and remember how small and wizzen european poor were, all i can think is that in europe the pooor were more disgracefully pooor than the the poor in many other parts of the world, what a disgrace for the christian world. rose macaskie madrid.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  22. giorgio

    But as a magic wand ... to create new jobs for those young people who have the will and for those parents who have lost!! It seems that these great economists do not have the right numbers to make everything fit.
    Tarry tax evasion and not cure the world of work. If more people to work ... more people to pay.
    Would be formed in a short time, the economic balance.
    No! towards creating new job can not hear anyone. They are taken from the conquest to heal the debts. But no one is up in this vicious circle that has been created. Dishonest with people who do not appreciate that the majority can not make ends meet. But human nature is like this .......... and it will remain just a dream that everyone is well .... hello all giorgio

    April 29, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  23. Chitralekha

    Dear Krishnaji,Thank you very much for sending brief news about Ghandruk, it cenaitrly has given us pleasure to know what is going on in Ghandruk.I was born and bred in Ghandruk but due to global migration, currently living in the global village in the UK. As such I am always endeavoring to keep myself up to date with the news and views about Ghandruk. The step you have taken is good for those people living abroad. If you would kindly send us such brief notes at least every six months would be great?Thank you so much.Warmest regards

    May 15, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  24. Fernanda

    I do not like pasties. I will not be trapped in such a mean tax. How stupid these financial experts are! And they always think to tax poor people! Can we consider that pasties are food aimed for rich people! Pasties are unbalanced food, greasy and disgusting one and it is revealed as a luxe when it is hot. Shame on the petty minds of those financial experts, they should taste cold and hot pasties to have the real difference between poor and rich people! Why do they want God for rich people and the Devil for the others! Shame on them, how stupid and petty they are! You are right Mr Quest to reveal such a low spirit on their part... Fernanda

    May 24, 2012 at 5:33 am |
  25. Thomas


    I call this the proximipasty rule. Pasties get worse the further you are from Cornwall. The one in Euston station, for example, is a pitiful shadow of the glory of a Cornish pasty consumed, as its name would hint, in Cornwall. To judge Cornish pasties by tasting a London pasty is like judging Britain on the quality of writing in The Sun.

    Cornish pasty. Come to Cornwall and prove me wrong.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:08 am |

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Quest Means Business airs Monday to Friday, 1600 New York and 2100 London, and is hosted by Richard Quest.



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