Tax change set to make food donations much easier for producers and retailers

Photo: Agnés Joyaut

In what will no doubt be a boon to charities in the Czech Republic, it should soon become much easier for producers and retailers to give away unwanted foodstuffs, the Czech News Agency has reported.

Photo: Agnés Joyaut
The General Financial Directorate (GFD), which oversees the country’s tax collection, is preparing a change – set to come into effect next month – under which the basic value added tax on donated foods would be zero or close to zero.

A spokesperson for the GDF, Petra Petlachová, said the new low or non-existent tax rate would apply to foodstuffs that are approaching their sell-by date or are otherwise unsuitable for general sale but are still consumable.

At present Czech producers and sellers have to pay VAT of 15 percent of the original sales price on donated foodstuffs. This means that many at present prefer to destroy goods rather than give them to food banks (which for logistical reasons are mainly interested in non-perishable items and staples such as rice and flour).

Fabrice Martin-Plichta, photo: Šárka Ševčíková
Fabrice Martin-Plichta of the Czech Federation of Food Banks, a pioneering organisation in the field that has been lobbying for such a modification for some time, said the current 15 percent VAT rate represented a large item in companies’ monthly accounting.

The president of the Czech Confederation of Commerce and Tourism, Marta Nováková, pointed out on Czech Television that some in the industry do at present donate surplus foods, despite the fact that it costs them money.

According to Ms. Nováková, her association had been discussing the planned change with the Ministry of Finance for a full year. The Ministry of Agriculture has also expressed support for the idea, she said.

Many retailers have welcomed the news. A spokesperson for Albert said it would motivate the supermarket chain to intensify its cooperation with food banks and in so doing reduce waste, while a representative of Macro said it represented the removal of a barrier.

Up to now the state has rejected such a move, saying it would contravene European Union law. However, many EU states have introduced exceptions to allow for excess foodstuffs to be given to charities tax free.

Photo: Eva Odstrčilová
It is estimated that 700,000 tonnes of foodstuffs are thrown out in the Czech Republic every year, half by households, half by producers and retailers.

This coming Saturday over 380 shops around the Czech Republic are set to take part in a pre-Christmas National Food Collection, three times more than the number that participated in the first edition in 2013. Organisers say they hope that the drive’s 2,000 volunteers will take in over 100 tonnes of foodstuffs, which will distributed to the needy.