VAT on health supplements

 

Sir, – The mainstream media outlets – and just about everybody else – have become eerily quiet on the topic of VAT on health supplements in Ireland. One result of this apparent indifference is that Revenue seems to be going ahead with adding an extra 23 per cent VAT on health supplements in Ireland. The recent budget raises the question as to whether this tax on people in need will be used to finance the Government’s other health policies, such as the reduction in prescription costs. Revenue’s initiative will make health supplements – and thereby good health – unaffordable for the majority of people needing supplements to maintain good health. This is only one step away from VAT on medicines for a significant number of people.

This imposition goes against a so-called “consultation” led by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, in which the vast majority of the 121 submissions made a strong case for the retaining of the zero per cent concession rate. Of these 121 submissions, the one by the Minister of Health stands out; he states that he “generally does not recommend health supplements”. Not a health-centred opinion then, and one that doesn’t tally with the sad reality of how depleted and poor our soil is nowadays, meaning it is no longer possible to get enough vitamins and minerals from diet alone.

How can this travesty take place when it affects most people to some extent and a minority of people to a far greater extent? The majority are affected in that sunshine is relatively rare here, and sufficient vitamin D is generally unavailable from food, so the majority of our population, not only infants, would be well advised to take vitamin D3 supplements for a strong immune system. An adequate consumption of Omega 3 without supplements is unrealistic, as the amount of oily fish needed is beyond most people’s digestive capacity and would likely involve a dangerously high consumption of heavy metals. Those of us who prefer to protect themselves from and treat colds and flus with extra vitamin C, elderberry and echinacea – rather than with medication – save the health services significant costs. The relevant minorities include those taking antibiotics who need probiotics to restore equilibrium (often on the recommendation of a doctor). Should it be that good health for so many in Ireland should be taxed?

This is for the Minister of Finance to decide. He has another 20 days to declare through his actions or his inertia how much health is worth to the government and to Ireland by means of legislating either to maintain a zero per cent VAT rate or a reduced rate of VAT for these valuable products. France manages a 5.5 per cent VAT rate, so it can be done. Currently Ireland leads the way at zero per cent VAT, but it is to be seen whether the Minister considers Ireland’s leadership to be a good thing. – Yours, etc,

MELANIE BOUFFARD,

Caherhillan,

Kinvara, Co Galway.