No Health Tax – Act now!

Nov 12, 2018

First the Sugar Tax – now the Health Tax!

:: PRESS RELEASE ::  Government wants it both ways on health.

In news which has sent shockwaves throughout the entire health and vitality sector, the Minister for Finance is reported to be eyeing up placing a flat rate of VAT on the majority of health food supplements.

Most food supplements (excluding sport nutrition and beauty supplements) have had a traditional VAT rating of 0% for over 40 years. Without legislation enshrining this, Revenue have committed to applying VAT at 23% on all food supplements from January 2019.

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Food supplements would include everything, from your common multivitamin to keep a little pep in your step to Glucosamine Sulphate to help with achy knees or Vitamin D which is recommended for babies and supplementation during our long winter months. With the need for over 55s to keep healthy and maintain employment for social and economic reasons, diet, exercise and nutritional supplements have become key areas in supporting general well-being.

Up to now all these products have been treated rather benignly by successive governments and they were not treated as luxury items – which is where most consumer purchases would incur VAT. Today however we have learnt that Revenue wish to treat supplements in the way that other luxuries are treated and that some degree of tax will be imposed upon their purchase, whether it be 13.5% or indeed the upper rate of 23%.

Given the historical statements of Leo Varadkar on the issue of resourcing preventative healthcare, this is seen as a somewhat contradictory stance for the government to take up now. Speaking on the Health (General Practitioner Service) Bill 2014, the then Minister for Health Leo Varadkar is quoted as saying –This particular measure is  the keystone of the Governments policy in the area of primary care…… we are shifting the focus of healthcare from hospitals to the community, and from treating illness to maintaining good health“.

Considering that these items are being purchased by people primarily to maintain good health and by extension relieve some of the stress on the already overburdened health system then the idea of taxing it is seen as a somewhat bizarre initiative.

Revenue have previously offered that the justification for this move was to harmonise our treatment of these products with European tax code.  Ciaran Hurley, tax advisor, says “this is just not the case. We have been here before with herbal teas with the same arguments. In that case the Government backed down from applying VAT”. Health food retailers say that their customers will see it to be more a case of the government looking for yet another easy way to tax the consumers pocket and they will vehemently resist this move.

While we wait for a formal announcement at Budget 2019 or the Finance Bill, it is certainly expected that yet again consumers are being required to pay more for something which the Government should encourage rather than tax.

Matt Ronan from Evolv Health Store in Enniscorthy says “we expect there to be a wave of customer anger when it’s explained to people that products which they consider to be necessary to maintain their health are now to be taxed by a government that is struggling to provide a decent healthcare system”. 

Alan McGrath, Health Stores Ireland, which represents the retail health food sector, said “the application of the Sugar Tax and the setting up of support bodies like Healthy Ireland demonstrate that maintaining good health is a clear policy for Government, this policy should not be contradicted by the taxation regime. Applying VAT to food supplements would be completely inconsistent with the way they are regulated and with current Government policy on health”.


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(posted 3rd October – updated 12th November 2018)


  1. Supplements ar NOT a luxury, they play a vital role in the health of our nation

  2. This tax if implemented on Healthcare products would eventually result in more need for HSE treatment!

  3. J’ai eu envie d’arrêter médecine, vraiment.

  4. I signed the petition.

  5. I am the mother of a special needs son who has been sick since he was four years old. I cannot say enough about how much he has improved since taking Super 8 Gold, Udos Choice Oil and One Nutrition D3-Max. These supplements have given my son a completely new lease of life. The improvement is massive, really tremendous. It has been years since I have had the comfort of knowing he can go out without needing a change of clothes in case of accidents. The Super 8 Gold has made it possible for him to go out on day trips without having to worry about this. He recently went to the cinema with his new carer with no problems, without Super 8 Gold this would not have been possible. These products have brought comfort to our whole family. I do not work and struggle to afford these products, it would be a disaster for my son if these products were to be increased in price due to Vat being applied at 23% as I would most certainly not be able to afford them.

  6. I am in my 70’s but I want to stay in good health for as long as possible. I do have osteoporosis which means I have to stay active and keep my joints moving. I have been taking Udo’s Oil for around 6 years now. I also take Udo’s Microbiotics and other supplements to boost my immune system. Having to pay VAT on food supplements would cost me around €250 extra annually – or to put it another way €5 weekly which would cancel out the increase to the old age pension in this year’s budget!

  7. Please contact your local TD’s to stop this insane and unjust health tax.

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