September 29, 2006

Jaffa Cakes And Tax

No, this isn’t some really crazed idea about how we could possibly receive our tax rebates in perishable goods (although personally the idea of the £100+ the tax office seems to owe me showing up in confectionary form is tantilising), no this is about the answer to the second most burning question about small, sweet objects.*

Is it a cake or a biscuit?

You’d be forgiven for thinking this is another of those stupid debates which have no real resolution but exist purely to get students to row about things which bear no relevance to real life. You’re wrong. God, it must suck to be you.

Jaffa cakes are cakes for tax reasons. No seriously, they are. Most people who argue that jaffa cakes are cakes use the logical argument that when they are stale they go hard, whereas Digestives and Penguins go soft. Cake = hard, biscuit = soft. It was using this reasoning that McVities went to tribunal against the Inland Revenue over the jaffa cake’s status.

Basically biscuits are classed as a luxury item and incur a 17.5% VAT charge. Cakes, supposedly are basic foodstuffs and are therefore VAT exempt. The government wanted to get this tax flow and took McVities on. The soft/hard debate was what settled it.

Now what does this show? I’m sure if we really wanted we could put our Daily Mail hats on (fucking asylum seekers, etc etc) and moan about this being another example of the waste of time that the government can be sometimes every minute of every working day. But that would be stupid, and not just because it involves thinking like a newspaper which has paid no attention at all to major revelations like it being the 21st century and Genghis Khan not being considered a good model for leadership. No, the jaffa issue is important. How would you feel if they were a luxury item? Do you want to be priced out of those delicious little pieces of joy? If small people can get away with buying kids’ shoes and not paying VAT on them, then I’m damned if (with my size 8 adult shoes) I’m paying VAT on my jaffas as well.

So inclusion – cake and anyone who says biscuit is only out to ruin your life and remove you jaffa cakes permanently to a massive, exclusive gated estate filled with modern day Marie Antionettes declaring “Let them eat cake… cos jaffa cakes ain’t cakes!”.**


*The most pressing being is does scone rhyme with phone, gone or done?

**History Pedant says “Although Marie Antoinette probably didn’t say this”.

- 63 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Greetings (and at such an hour). I once told this very same story to someone. I can’t remember who it was. Or when.

    Hi there. Go read my new entry. Someone has to be the first.

    30 Sep 2006, 01:30

  2. P.S. I really don’t like Jaffa Cakes.

    30 Sep 2006, 01:31

  3. Mathew Mannion

    It’s not a real biscuit because that guy in Mitchell and Webb who could telekinetically control biscuits couldn’t touch them. Case closed.

    30 Sep 2006, 10:43

  4. Taishakutiin

    Now I wonder how those cookies which are soft when you eat them are classified…

    I’ve always thought of them as cakes not simply just because they go hard when stale but because of the texture… it’s quite clearly sponge as opposed to… well biscuit. Which is probably why they go hard in the first place.

    30 Sep 2006, 11:30

  5. Dave tCB

    Is it therefore the case that soft rock music is taxed and hard rock isn’t? I like Jaffa Cakes.

    30 Sep 2006, 11:53

  6. Dave, exactly! When did anyone ever write a Eurovision winning song called ‘Soft Rock Hallelujah’? It would be too much hassle getting it through duty free.

    30 Sep 2006, 12:48

  7. If you buy proper jaffa cakes surely they are cakes, soft and fluffy. If you buy tesco value ones, then they are biscuits. Much harder.

    30 Sep 2006, 13:39

  8. Does tBC stand for “the Cock Badger” ?

    30 Sep 2006, 15:00

  9. Lisa

    Its a biscuit!

    30 Sep 2006, 15:20

  10. Lucinda

    I hate jaffa cakes, they taste so artificial.

    30 Sep 2006, 16:08

  11. Charlotte

    My like/hate with jaffa cakes if an on/off relationship. I don’t like the taste much, though

    30 Sep 2006, 18:12

  12. They ming, but they’re cakes. And why exactly isn’t cake a luxury? It’s hardly a staple!

    30 Sep 2006, 19:25

  13. I’m taking comfort in that fact and now resolve to eat as much cake as I would any other staple food. Because everyone needs a goal in life.

    30 Sep 2006, 21:08

  14. Dave tCB


    30 Sep 2006, 21:38

  15. Moz

    Strange, in my mind, I consider Jaffa Cakes to be biscuits (probably coz in shape and size they resemble them more than cakes), but thinking about it, they ARE in fact cakes.

    However, how can biscuits be classed as luxury items and cakes as basic foodstuffs? I’d actually imagine it more to be the other way round. If I had the choice between eating a digestive or a slice of luxurious chocolate cake, I’m gonna go for the cake (unless I was feeling Catholic, i.e. guilty). The ONLY biscuits that can be really classed as luxury items are nice Viennesse ones, or Tesco’s white chocolate cookies. Or the Sainbury’s white chocolate cookies with raspberry pieces in them too. Mmm, I love white chocolate. And before you chocolate facists get on my case, I know white chocolate isn’t ‘technically’ chocolate…

    Here’s something else to consider- apple pies? Are they classed as cakes, or pies??? You wouldn’t have one for a main course with chips (unlike meat and potato pie), and they therefore, in this sense share more in common with cakes- they are both desserts. Also, Mr Kipling makes them, and as we know, he makes exceedingly good CAKES. That’s right kids, CAKES. Not PIES. However, they’re called apple pies, and they’re made with pastry. Ah, the confusion.

    01 Oct 2006, 00:07

  16. I look forward to this post being the top Google result for “fucking asylum seekers”...

    01 Oct 2006, 15:13

  17. Steven Hoon

    just adding a technical point. biscuits are in fact zero rated for VAT (i.e. essential goods) unless they are coated in a chocolate or cholcolate like substance. so plain old digestives are 0%, chocolate ones are 17.5%

    01 Oct 2006, 21:06

  18. So a biscuit covered in chocolate is a luxury, but a chocolate cake isn’t? Weird.

    01 Oct 2006, 22:43

  19. Charlotte

    That IS weird. But a jaffa cake is a biscuit covered in chocolate with orangey stuff inside it, and normally, a chocolate cake isn’t, see? xx

    02 Oct 2006, 07:02

  20. Cake is basic foodstuff?? I’m amazed!!
    Jaffa cakes are obviously cakes not biscuits anyway, and mmmm i do love them!

    02 Oct 2006, 17:38

  21. Charlotte

    I suppose they’re alright once you get used to them, but hardky anyone likes them at first. Especially not me!!!!! xxxxx

    02 Oct 2006, 17:41

  22. Roger

    Anti-Spam Answer:

    03 Oct 2006, 09:29

  23. The judge who was hearing the tax case for Jaffa Cakes proclaimed at one stage to help him decide: “I’ve never seen a Jaffa Cake. Bring me one now”!

    03 Oct 2006, 13:00

  24. Imagine going your whole life without a jaffa cake. Deprived. Poor man!

    03 Oct 2006, 16:45

  25. Charlotte

    Who’s a poor man then, eh? I also don’t think I dont wanna live my whole life without a jaffa cake, even if they don’t taste super!

    03 Oct 2006, 19:11

  26. James

    Funnily enough, this is a classic example of the folly (rhymes with Holly) of trying to make exemptions to rules rather than having equality as one’s starting principle. In the late 60s/early 70s when VAT was mooted by the Tories, they were anxious not to offend lower income people (they’d have called them the working class) more than necessary (sales tax, let us remind ourselves, is regressive: the lower one’s income the higher proportion of it one has to spend, thus the greater the percentage of one’s income the gvt filches in sales tax). So they were to introduce VAT on food, but “not working man’s fish and chips”. The drafters of tax legislation asked if this would include dover saul and french cut fried potatoes at the Savoy Grill. They were told it would not. So how to draft the rules? The best they could come up with was to exclude prepared food sold intended to be consumed ‘off premises’. It was then asked what of the expensive caterer who prepares food at a wedding – is that on or off the caterer’s site? Nowadays many a chip shop has tables where you can eat on site if you like. Hence the stupid rule about two different prices for food sold at Pret, for example.

    There is one group who gain from all this – lawyers, who get to advise and litigate about what falls within exemptions. The Gvt shoud have the balls to impose the tax equally (possibly at a lower level) or not at all.

    05 Oct 2006, 11:38

  27. Charlotte

    What’s VAT? xx

    05 Oct 2006, 16:39

  28. Gregory

    it stands for value added tax, Charlotte.

    05 Oct 2006, 19:29

  29. Charlotte


    05 Oct 2006, 19:47

  30. James

    Just noticed a question in the original post – the answer is that scone rhymes with gone. Do you put the cream on first or the jam?

    06 Oct 2006, 09:56

  31. Interesting question, I would have thought put the cream in first and then add the jam. I don’t know why, but that just feels like the correct way to do it.

    Also I pronounce it to rhyme with phone, hehehe.

    06 Oct 2006, 10:26

  32. James

    I have heard that you should do cream first as it is a butter substitute, but then I’ve also heard it is not a butter substitute. Besides, it would presumably be easier to put cream on jam than jam on cream, but of course being easy doesn’t mean being right. Seems in Devon they do cream first, so maybe when in Rome ….

    You pronounce it wrong, hehehehehehhehe …. but then I’m a foreigner so what do I know ….

    06 Oct 2006, 11:53

  33. I pronounce it the way my parents do… but they’re both of Irish stock so it probably isn’t the way the English pronounce it :P

    I want a scone now.

    06 Oct 2006, 14:18

  34. James

    So do I. With jam (cream first). And can I have a Devonshire Tea as well ;-)

    06 Oct 2006, 14:40

  35. I have no consistency in my scone pronounciation. Some types it rhymes with phone sometimes with gone. Regardless of how its pronounced its got to be cream first! Have you done the cream tea at Time for Tea in Kenilworth? A-mazing!

    06 Oct 2006, 19:53

  36. Scone = extension of the word ‘cone’. ‘Cone’ rhyme with ‘phone’. Hence Scone rhyme with ‘phone’.

    I win. As does anyone else who says scone proper.

    07 Oct 2006, 13:34

  37. Yes! I have been telling people the tax thing all my life, and no one has previously believed me. I now feel at peace with myself.

    07 Oct 2006, 15:58

  38. Charlotte

    Me too xx

    07 Oct 2006, 16:59

  39. i like jaffa cakes

    07 Oct 2006, 17:35

  40. Charlotte

    Me too, but they’re horrible once you get used to them! xx

    07 Oct 2006, 18:21

  41. Who thinks scone rhymes with done? SERIOUSLY!

    07 Oct 2006, 22:20

  42. Shut it Miles, scone rhymes with all kinds of “on” words. And Charlotte, for God’s sake take a hint and break your modem with an axe.

    07 Oct 2006, 22:42

  43. “xx”.

    07 Oct 2006, 22:43

  44. Charlotte

    James: Thanks for the kisses xx

    08 Oct 2006, 11:56

  45. Jess

    Leave Charlotte alone James, you big bully.

    08 Oct 2006, 13:55

  46. Jess

    P.s. Are you sure you don’t wear lingerie.

    08 Oct 2006, 14:01

  47. Charlotte

    Phew, thanks for being supportive! xx

    08 Oct 2006, 14:02

  48. Charlotte

    PS: Whta’s “lingerie?” xx
    PPS: James: Thanks for mimicking all my “x”s anyway! xx

    08 Oct 2006, 19:13

  49. Charlotte, what is the definition of ‘irony’?

    08 Oct 2006, 19:42

  50. Charlotte

    What’s that? Can’t we just have a conversation where we DON’T argue? xx

    08 Oct 2006, 20:10

  51. steve

    hmm deffo cakes (there’s a hint in the name), that and they’re cakey not biscuity. afaik it’s phone and cream. I’ll not be buying any jaffa cakes from c*cksuckers any time soon though, partly cos i dont live anywhere near that shop anymore, but mainly because last time there was one missing!

    08 Oct 2006, 20:11

  52. Jess

    I think that will do now why not take a leaf out of Charlottes and not argue (I don’t think theres any need for vulgarity either).

    08 Oct 2006, 20:34

  53. Charlotte

    Jess, if you’re supporting me, thanks! I feel a lot better! xx

    08 Oct 2006, 20:41

  54. Jess fancies James, it’s obvious.

    09 Oct 2006, 16:54

  55. Team Rocket Blast Off At The SPEED OF LIGHT.

    10 Oct 2006, 15:36

  56. Charlotte

    Is that from pokemon? xx

    10 Oct 2006, 18:05

  57. James

    If anyone’s interested in the wider issue that the Jaffa cake v Jaffa biscuit raises, I’ve blogged a couple of posts about it this week.

    If not, and they just want to put up fatuous crap, then carry on, I’m so drunk at the moment I’m happy to join in with that. Actually I’m not so happy, as I’m turning the computer off and looking for food. Jaffa cakes, scones and devonshire teas will work.

    10 Oct 2006, 19:25

  58. Dvid

    Och aye thae noo! Ye dinnae want tae be worryin’ aboot Jaffa Cakes when ye can worry aboot haggis. Is haggis a puddin’ or a pie?
    It’s neither laddies and lassies! Och, ye juist cannae git thae staff these dees!

    05 Mar 2007, 23:12

  59. Team Rocket Blast Off At The SPEED OF LIGHT.

    What the hell was going through my mind when I posted that?

    06 Mar 2007, 02:35

  60. Glenn

    What! is Charlotte retarded or something?

    “Thanks for the kisses… what’s VAT? what’s lingerie?” How can you function Charlotte? How can you even type?

    24 Apr 2007, 16:29

  61. If jaffa cakes and scones had a fight, who do you think would win?

    26 Apr 2007, 21:35

  62. Scones. Harder. Less likely to melt. Jaffas are squidgy in the middle too – no backbone.

    26 Apr 2007, 22:17

  63. It’s not all about having a backbone. It’s about how much inner strength you can muster. Some of the most fearsome creatures to have graced the earth have lived without a backbone. And some of the hardest individuals I’ve known (superficially hard at least) have proven to be rather soft when the going gets tough.

    Never judge a book by its cover. Or a jaffa cake by it’s centre, for that matter.

    30 Apr 2007, 19:48

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