Fuck the ‘pasty tax’. This is Oxford: the edamame bean tax is real, and it’s infringing my liberty

feeding hacks since 2014

Feeding lonely hacks since 2014

Owing to my continued status as my college’s friendless ex-hack with no desire to attend Hall meals, I am one of a growing number of Oxford students who ends up in Itsu shortly before closing time every other night. I whap out my Bod card faster than you can say “salmon teriyaki” and take full advantage of half-price, student-discounted, Asian-influenced goodness.

But recently I was informed that my nightly indulgence in a garden shed salad with al dente beans might have a sinister side I had never considered. Alas, no longer are these dishes from the Itsu fridge of heaven just smorgasbords of Oriental delight: they are potentially mechanisms for large-scale tax-avoidance, and they may even be forcing the state into bankruptcy and financial ruin. Or something like that.

You see, owing to my continued dissatisfaction with the state’s desire to rob me of an extra 50p every time I want a fucking overpriced cold salad – and like all rational beings who are not self-righteous enough to financially flagellate themselves in front of the Exchequer when fulfilling the biological need to eat – I almost always tell the harassed-looking server that yes, I want my fridged bento box to take out, and then no, I do not take out. As soon as I turn away from the till, I almost always go and sit in the nice warm restaurant to eat, saving myself the extra 20% that the government charges indoor eaters to pay for civil service salaries and primary school children’s milk. Take that, kids.

This habit was inspired in me by a fellow tax-dodging Versa contributor, who once sagely informed me that “it’s not Itsu who cares, it’s just the government”. It’s just the government. That’s all it is. However – law-abiding citizen that I hope to be – I decided to check my legal status. Typing “Am I tax-evading by eating muki beans and furikake” into Google got me nowhere, but after some refined searching the helpful folks at Durham University were able to inform me in a paper that pen-pushers at HMRC told businesses: “You must always charge VAT at the standard rate if you make a supply of food and drink for consumption on the premises on which it is supplied.” So far, so tax-dodgy. That’s my tangy tuna “on a bed” getting all up in George Osborne’s grill. But am I personally liable if I lie to the server and say I’m leaving, then sneak over to the seats behind their back?

The tax collectors have the answer. A handily-named government document – “What is VAT fraud?” – quite clearly states several types of VAT fraud, all of which are relevant only to the “taxable person” (the business) and none of which include chomping down a salmon and tuna tartare on the sly. So, thankfully, Itsu is the party which is liable for failing to stump up the cash. I can enjoy my insufferably middle-class salads at a reduced price safe in the knowledge that it is Itsu, not me, which is contributing to the closure of hospitals and dismissal of social workers. While I walk down Cornmarket back to college with that extra saved 50p jangling in my pocket, I have a fully clear conscience, and a fully satisfied stomach. What a good citizen.

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