HM Revenue & Customs is not a classic source of funnies, ’tis true. But the faintly absurd transcript of the tribunal ruling on whether Subway’s toasted sarnies are zero-rated for VAT is a rare exception. This exercise in legalese is a rollicking read and would have you gripped right through to the cliffhanger, had we not blown the ending in our news this week. Here’s an extract where solicitor Owain Thomas locks horns with Subway franchise owner Kay Mulligan, who argues that a toasted Meatball Marinara sub is not ’hot food’.
Mrs Mulligan: "Hot food to me would be when I received something that was meant to be hot; it would be hot to touch, hot to put in the mouth. If I went to a restaurant and received a plate of food at the same temperature as my Sub, I would complain and send it back. A hot product is something that I would not give to my five-year-old son for him to take a bite out of straight away. A hot product is hot."
Mr T: "You say a hot dinner is a hot dinner and a toasted sandwich is not."
Mrs M: "That’s right."
Mr T: "If the law says your toasted sandwiches are hot food, you would accept that you intend to supply hot food? Because you intentionally supply these sandwiches. It’s not incidental..."
Mrs M: "Yes if that was the ruling, but then surely they would have to tell us what temperature that hot food is."
Mr T: "I think what you are saying is, ’I don’t think the toasted sandwiches count as hot food, because my definition doesn’t include them’."
Mrs M: "Yes. I don’t believe they even reach ambient. I know that we have sat and listened to the experts argue over a couple of degrees here or there, but I do not supply a hot product."
This continues for 54 pages. Mulligan lost, but the battle is sure to run and run...