Springfords LLP blog

Some news, views and comments about everything and anything, relevant and irreverent.

Want fries with that?

01 December 2014

Would you pay a health tax for your takeaway?  What about a waistline waiver for thinnies?  If it’s not just your chips that are chunky, how would you feel about a targeted tax on junk food?

A healthy tax regime, and a healthy diet.  We might be experts on the tax menu, but we’d like to think we take our health and diet seriously too.  Not so seriously though, that we’re considering the sort of reaction proposed in Ecuador, where obesity rates are even higher than in the already super-sized USA.

In Ecuador, a country plagued with what they call junk food imports from the USA, the government proposed a new tax recently, which is aimed squarely at the nuggets, burgers and fries brigade.   President Rafael Correa went on record to say that Ecuadorians who wanted to make themselves sick with over eating were welcome to do so, but they should contribute a little more to the healthcare system, to help them once they were ill.

From the president, who frankly wouldn’t look out of place in the A Team, that’s a rather robust South American approach.  Meanwhile, in South Wales,  Assembly members, some of whom have no trouble filling their Saville Row suits, have been asked to consider a health recommendation on a fatty food tax.  This was after the principality’s ambulance service spent £3m adapting over 40 vehicles to cope with patients who make Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey seem positively under nourished.

Fast tax moves on fast food have been around for a while.  Bankrupt Detroit proposed such a move a decade ago.  They poured a dressing on the idea, claiming it would help bail out the city’s finances at the same time as cutting the city’s waistline. 

Slimline Denmark - the residence of Ryvita and Thumbelina, but also the place for pastries and bacon -  was the first government in the world to table taxes on fast food.  Plans are also in hand for a nightly TV series on how to avoid unhealthy living.

There’s nothing in the UK Tax Book about fatty foods tax.  But the idea keeps coming round, just as long as the average Brit keeps getting bigger, and rates keep rising for weight-related health issues.

As always, there’s suspicion that any revenue raising menu, however well presented, will not be used to confront the perceived problem.  Will making a chicken nugget bucket more expensive help with health education, or will the revenue be used for some unrelated public project?  If fast food is made more healthy - bean burgers and falafel fries for example (hmm, yummy) - would any tax be revoked?  Unfortunately, like trans fats and glucose, once a taste for tax is developed, it’s really hard to go back.

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Some news, views and comments about everything and anything, relevant and irreverent.

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