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British Court Hears the Case of… Extra-Large Marshmallows

British marshmallow case

Now to the important stuff: what is a mega-marshmallow and how are we supposed to eat it? This is obviously a matter that calls for no less than the UK’s sharpest legal minds.

This summer, Britain’s First-tier Tribunal assembled to examine a bag of 27 Mega Marshmallows to determine their fate in the world of sweets.

What was their crime, you may wonder? Nothing so exciting: the court was deciding whether large marshmallows should be subject to the same standard retail sales tax as regular ones, which are about an inch shorter and half an inch thinner.

The sweet treats have secured a nine-page court ruling, in which the justices subjected marshmallow history to the most acute examination, scrutinizing how the foodstuff is presented and marketed and pondering the long-standing debate on whether marshmallows taste better raw or toasted.

The appellant is a wholesaler of American sweets and treats, taking issue with the fact that His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) had ruled that Mega Marshmallows were “confectionery and ought to have been standard rated”, thus saving the appellant a value-added tax (VAT) bill of about £470,000.

According to the appellant, Mega Marshmallows are “intended to be roasted over a campfire or barbecue and then eaten or used as an ingredient in what is called a ‘s’more’.”

“A s’more is a traditional American night-time campfire treat, consisting of a roasted marshmallow and a layer of chocolate between two digestive biscuits. The appellant says that the product would not usually be consumed as a snack without being roasted. In brief, the appellant says that the product is intended to be roasted before being eaten, or then used as an ingredient in preparing a s’more. As such, it does not fall within the term confectionery,” the ruling read.

After careful examination of all the facts, the intriguing legal drama was resolved in favour of the appellant. The court decided that larger marshmallows were not in fact confectionery and should therefore be zero-rated, unlike standard treats, which are subject to a VAT of 20 percent.

“The fact that it is sold and purchased as a product specifically for roasting, the marketing on the packaging which confirms that purpose, the size of the product which makes it particularly suitable for roasting, and the fact that it is positioned in the barbecue section of supermarkets during the summer months … [rather than] the world foods section, leads us to that conclusion,” the court ruled.

Image credit: Per Olesen, CC BY-SA 2.0

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