MPs push for VAT on fruit and vegetables to be scrapped
Several parties in the Tweede Kamer, including a number of coalition parties, are pushing for VAT on fruit and vegetables to be abolished as soon as possible. State Secretary for Public Health, Maarten van Ooijen, is under pressure to also act faster to reduce levels of obesity, alcohol consumption, and smoking.
The Tweede Kamer is the lower house of the Dutch parliament. Too slow, too informal, and too fragmented; that is the Kamer’s shared criticism of the progress of the National Prevention Agreement, which outlines plans to tackle smoking, obesity, and problematic alcohol use.
The agreement dates from 2018, but recent figures from Statistics Netherlands show that not much has changed. There are still too many people smoking, too much drinking, and too many people overweight. "Show guts and speed," PvdA MP Songül Mutluer demanded of State Secretary Van Ooijen in a debate on lifestyle prevention. Both the coalition and the opposition called for a quickened pace and concrete actions.
VVD MP Rudmer Heerema wants the VAT on fruit and vegetables to be set to zero percent as soon as possible. "It's a shame to wait so long for that." That is not necessary, according to the liberal. The "gray area" is mainly the bottleneck, according to the minister. Together with State Secretary of Finance Marnix van Rij, Van Ooijen is stuck on exactly what falls under fruit and vegetables. Should a can of beans or a carton of sieved tomatoes also be exempt from VAT? Heerema does not see the problem. Everyone knows what fresh fruit and vegetables are. To start with, abolish the VAT on that. Adding clarity to the gray area can be done later, Heerema suggested.
Despite criticism, Van Ooijen will not come back to this until the summer, he said in the debate. At that point, he will also write up a proposal to introduce the sugar tax; another plan from the coalition agreement. This is likely to be a progressive tax, where the tax increases as the amount of sugar in a product increase, such as in soft drinks.
Numerous political parties want to include prevention goals in the law. Van Ooijen is reluctant to do so. His plan is to improve the health of all Dutch people. This is partly possible through statutory regulations, but the government cannot force a healthy lifestyle, the State Secretary said. "The feasibility of goals also depends on the individual choices that people make. You cannot enforce them legally."
Reporting by ANP