Independent health food shops and the well-being of the nation are under threat from crippling VAT plans.

Most people take a health supplement of some sort nowadays, but these products will soon see a sharp price increase due to 23% VAT being imposed. At present there is no VAT on these products, so the increased cost to the customer will be substantial.

Independent health food stores are today staging their own ‘Black Friday’ to highlight the problem and to open conversations with customers.

Angela McGlanaghey who is manager of Simple Simon’s in Donegal Town told the Donegal Post: “People don’t realise the impact this is going to have. For example, our bestselling pro-biotic costs €25.98. It will cost €31.95 from next month.

“That is a massive jump. And it is only one product. This applies to all health supplements; folic acid which is essential for an unborn baby; Glucosamine that a lot of elderly people take for joint pain; multivitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D that we don’t get enough of here in Ireland so we need to supplement it.

“There are a lot of vegans now. They are deficient in vitamin B12 because you can’t get it from plant sources so they need to take a supplement.”

Indeed, it seems no coincidence that this plan to tax food supplements comes at a time when more and more people are taking responsibility for their own health.

The days when health food shops attracted a niche clientele are long gone. And it is no longer seen as an alternative to conventional medical care but is in fact very much a part of it.

For example, many GPs and other health care professionals are advocating the supplementation of vitamin D for both physical and mental health. Folic acid in pregnancy has long been accepted as playing an important role in foetal development.

Ms McGlanaghey is angry and frustrated by the government for imposing this tax which will take effect from early March.

“VAT is supposed to be on something that is a luxury item,” she said. “Are they trying to tell us that our health is a luxury?

“You can get a burger and chips in a fast food outlet and only pay 13.5% VAT. Yet it is nearly twice that if you are looking to take care of yourself. That is what they are targeting.”

She believes this sudden and sharp price hike will have a knock-on affect for the nation’s health system too.

“People are going to be very angry with the 23% increase when it comes in,” said Ms McGlanaghey. “When you have people who stop buying these supplements because of the price, their health and well-being will suffer, pushing them back to their GPs and hospitals which already overrun.

“I don’t think it is hitting home for people how much it will affect them. We are talking about going from 0% to 23% VAT overnight.”

The price could be very high too for small, independent health food stores.

“It is the independent businesses that will suffer most,” said Ms McGlanaghey. “We are not able to buy in bulk. We need to keep our orders small so that means we can’t absorb the cost.”

Have Your Say

A petition to stop this VAT rate being imposed is available online. People can also sign in-store in Simple Simon’s.

“I am hoping with all the signatures on the online petition, the government will at least shelve it for a while or come to a lower margin," said Ms McGlanaghey. "But it needs to be resolved now. There is no legislation for this, and that is how they can put on a 23% VAT rate just like that.”

The online petition is available at www.stopthisvat.ie

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