herb is applied to plants with leaves,
seeds or flowering used for food or medicine, or in some way for
their scent or flavour.
Spices are strongly flavoured or
aromatic substances of vegetable origin, obtained from tropical
plants commonly used as condiments or for other purposes on account
of their fragrance and preservative qualities.
It is not very common to find plants growing on a commercial scale in the UK for their spices, as the climate is not right for many of the varieties to thrive. Some are found in hot houses, where they are grown mainly for ornamental purposes.
For VAT purposes, herbs are not regarded as food in their own right, so for the zero rate to apply the herb must have a recognised culinary use. Information supplied by the British Herb Trade Association shows that plants supplied for culinary use are reared under different conditions from those grown as ornamental or hedging plants.
Those species of herbs that are generally accepted as being for
culinary use are zero-rated, irrespective of how they are held out
for sale. There are many other species that do have a recognised
culinary use, even though they may not be supplied predominantly as
culinary herbs. These may be zero-rated provided the specialised
growing conditions listed in
Notice 701/38 Seeds and plants are met.
These conditions for zero-rating became operative from 1st May 1993. An exhaustive list of zero-rated species can be found in Notice 701/38.
Herbs supplied for medicinal rather than culinary use are not
eligible for zero-rating as
food, and remain standard-rated even if
they have been raised under the same conditions as culinary herbs.
This includes plants used in the preparation of food supplements,
such as evening primrose and ginseng.
For Chinese herbal and pseudo-medicinal teas, see paragraph VFOOD1640.
Sachets of dried herbs and/or spices for cooking, such as bouquet garni and apple pie sugars and spices, are zero-rated. Sachets containing herbs and / or spices that are held out for sale as mulled wine mixtures, whisky todd mixtures, spiced cider mixtures and so on, are also zero-rated.
This herbal stimulant is also known as chat or Abyssinian, or African or Arabian tea. In the light of evidence suggesting that khat is being increasingly used as a stimulant drug, it is now not regarded as a food product and is properly standard-rated with effect from 1st February 1998.