Press release: Merry TaXmas – some Christmas-themed Tax Facts from the ATT

If you are the kind of person that finds cracker jokes too exciting, the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) has five fun Christmas-themed tax facts to keep friends and family entertained this Christmas:

1. ‘Tis the season to - file your tax return:  In December 2016, HMRC reported that 1,944 people filed their tax return on Christmas Day itself1.  This was a small drop on the record number of 2,044 in the previous year2.  Christmas Eve is even more popular for filing, with over 6,000 people in 2016 using the time while the turkey defrosts to submit their tax return.

2. O Tannenbaum: We wonder whether the Chancellor at Number 11, Downing Street gets a little bit of extra festive cheer from the Prime Minister’s tree next door on the grounds that it doesn’t cost the public purse.  The Downing Street Christmas tree is, in fact, provided by the winner of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association’s Grower of the Year3

3. A Snowball Fight becomes a VAT fight. After losing a tribunal case in 2014, HMRC now accepts that snowballs are, in fact, cakes and therefore zero-rated for VAT.  By snowball, we are of course referring to the marshmallow-based item produced by Tunnocks and Lees of Scotland, and not the frozen variety4.  The tribunal found this sweet treat too messy to be eaten while standing around saying:

“Most people would prefer to be sitting when eating a snowball and possibly, or preferably – depending on background, age, sex, etc – with a plate, a napkin or a piece of paper, or even just a bare table so that the pieces of coconut which fly off do not create a great deal of mess.” 

On that basis a snowball was considered by the tribunal to be a cake and therefore the snowball can join the Jaffa cake on the list of food-related VAT cases that those of us in the tax profession greatly enjoy. 

4. The Christmas Bonus: While cash bonuses are generally taxable, the extra ten pounds paid to those in receipt of the state pension, and various other benefits, in December is tax-free!  Hurrah!  Just don’t spend it all at once.

5. Festive Flu:  Finally, to avoid staff falling sick over the festive period you can pay for them to have a flu jab – with the cost covered by the trivial benefit rules so there is no tax cost for you or them.  

Notes for editors

  1. For more on the December 2016 filing figures see this report from the BBC
  2. For more on December 2015 filing figures from HMRC see here
  3. Details of this year’s ‘Grower of the Year’ can be found here.
  4. A Taxation article with further details on the case can be found here.


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