The standard VAT rate in Spain is 21%, while the reduced rate of 10% is applied to all non-basic food. A super-reduced rate of 4% is applied to basic foods: bread, milk, eggs, cheese, fruit and vegetables, and cereals. Seafood is not considered a basic food.
In most of Europe, the value added tax (VAT) on seafood is considerably lower than the average applied to consumer goods generally. The tax is zero in the UK and in EU member states Ireland and Malta. Elsewhere in the EU, the VAT on seafood in France, Germany, Hungary, and Portugal ranges from 5% to 6%. In Spain, however, seafood is subject to the 10% VAT applied generally to non-basic foods. Besides being a basic food, the most emphasised reason that much of Europe gives seafood a lower VAT is, it’s an especially healthy protein. On the other hand, almost everywhere — including Spain — the taxes on fuel used by fishermen have been cut to help them deal with the economic turmoil running through Europe in recent years. This has helped the industry weather the effects of the pandemic, Brexit, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, among other international disasters.
Seafood consumers should get a financial break like the fishing industry does, says the Spanish Fisheries Confederation (CEPESCA). Household consumption of seafood in Spain has fallen by 25% in the last 14 years, the organisation reports, and a seafood tax that is double the average is a significant reason why. CEPESCA criticised the government for neglecting to lower VAT on seafood because the excessive tax drives consumers away from the healthy part of any balanced diet. The group noted seafood’s quality and nutritional properties, which give it a prominent place in the so-called Mediterranean and Atlantic “diets” that health experts around the world encourage. CEPESCA’s calculations indicate that reducing the VAT on seafood would cost Spain’s treasury less than EUR 500 million, which the group indicated might be completely offset by reduced government expenditures for citizens’ health problems caused by unwholesome diets.