Learning English - Words in the News
11 April, 2008 - Published 10:44 GMT
The European Court of Justice has ruled that the British retailer, Marks and Spencer, can claim back £3.5m in overpaid VAT on teacakes. For years, the British authorities defined a chocolate teacake as a biscuit - which attracts a sales tax - rather than a cake, which does not. So when is a cake not a biscuit? Duncan Bartlett reports:
Teacakes are not made out of tea but many British people enjoy eating them while drinking a cup of tea. The chocolate teacake, which has been discussed by international lawyers for more than a decade now, is made by a leading supermarket chain, Marks and Spencer. It's got a shortbread base, a marshmallow type filling and a chocolate shell. So the key question has been - does that make it a cake or a biscuit?
Long ago, the British tax authorities decided it was a biscuit, a luxury food eligible for sales tax. The supermarket maintained it was a cake, a basic food which is exempt from tax. The argument's been through many courts and the latest ruling from the European Court of Justice seems to come down on the cake side of the argument. Marks and Spencer should get a tax refund, said the judges.
But it's not over yet. The European Court says - ultimately, it's for the British authorities to decide the matter, meaning it's now likely to be discussed by Britain's highest court, the House of Lords. Marks and Spencer gave the decision a cautious welcome; in the meantime it continues to sell the teacakes and its customers can go on enjoying them regardless of the bitter legal arguments that they've caused.
Duncan Bartlett, BBC News, Brussels
a leading supermarket chain
a luxury food
is exempt from tax
to come down on the cake side of the argument
a tax refund
gave the decision a cautious welcome
regardless of the bitter legal arguments