Polish government ends 0% VAT on food after two years

Poland’s government has announced that it will end the 0% VAT rate on food that was introduced two years ago to help soften the blow of soaring inflation. The finance ministry argues that the recent slowing of price rises renders the measure no longer necessary.

However, the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party, which introduced the VAT cut while in office, has criticised the decision, saying that the government is “draining Poles’ wallets”.

Bum❗️ VAT na żywność w górę – ogłasza @Domanski_Andrz.

Po 31 marca nie będzie przedłużania obniżonej stawki.https://t.co/qduwuQe1GT

— Krzysztof Berenda (@k_berenda) March 12, 2024

“Due to the latest inflation readings and forecasts of the dynamics of the prices of basic food products subject to the transitional 0% VAT rate, the finance ministry has decided not to extend the temporary reduction of the VAT rate after 31 March 2024,” announced the ministry on Tuesday morning.

It noted that, when the measure was introduced in February 2022, annual inflation had reached 9.2% the previous month. Inflation then soared to a peak of 18.4% in February 2023, but has been in decline since then.

In January this year, it fell to 3.9%, the first time it had been below 4% in almost three years. Food and drink prices rose 4.9% year-on-year in January, the lowest figure since September 2021.

Inflation stood at 3.9% in Poland in January, decelerating sharply from 6.2% in December.

It was the lowest figure in almost three years, during which time inflation reached a peak of 18.4% in February last year.

Read our full report here: https://t.co/2RAe2zzhgm pic.twitter.com/zZ90XJfKnl

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) February 15, 2024

The finance ministry notes that food price growth and overall inflation are set to continue to slow in the data for February and March, thereby justifying the return to the previous 5% VAT rate on food from the start of April.

However, its decision was met with strong criticism from PiS, which was removed from office in December 2023 and is now the largest opposition party.

“From 1 April, the zero VAT rate on food will disappear, and unfortunately this isn’t an April Fool’s joke,” tweeted Mateusz Morawiecki, who as PiS prime minister introduced the 0% rate in 2022. “The government is again draining Poles’ wallets.”

Od 1 kwietnia zniknie zerowa stawka #VAT na żywność. I niestety nie będzie to żart na prima aprilis.
Koalicja drożyzny – na 100 dni rządu – ponownie drenuje portfele Polaków!
📈🍖🍞🍅🧀 pic.twitter.com/GcaRifA7BR

— Mateusz Morawiecki (@MorawieckiM) March 12, 2024

When the outgoing PiS government renewed the 0% VAT rate in December, the finance ministry estimated that the policy would cost the state budget 2.93 billion zloty (€684 million) in lost tax revenue across the whole of 2024.

Yesterday, Poland’s central bank released forecasts indicating that, if protective measures such as VAT cuts and energy-price freezes remain in place, then inflation this year will be 3%. But without them, it would stand at 5.7%.

“The future economic situation and the path of inflation in Poland are strongly dependent on current and future fiscal activities in Poland, including the scale and scope of anti-inflation protective measures undertaken,” said the bank.

Nie📍 będzie przedłużonego zerowego VAT na żywność po 31 marca – podaje @MF_GOV_PL. Według NBP, w tym scenariuszu, po chwilowym wzroście inflacji w br., wrócimy na kurs i ścieżkę.https://t.co/VO2cOcy4ro pic.twitter.com/CazJVF1zld

— Tomasz Żółciak (@tzolciak) March 12, 2024

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: Scott Warman/Unsplash

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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