It can’t be easy being one of the experts sitting on the panel reviewing the list of zero-rated VAT items. The group met formally for the first time this week and it is fair to assume that the job ahead of them must be daunting. For starters, the finance minister only announced the panel on April 24, and it is required to deliver an initial report with recommendations to the Davis tax committee by June 30. Two months is not much time to compile a substantive report in any circumstances, but between then and the end of June the group needs to hold public meetings and review submissions from business and civil society organisations. Along with the task of reviewing whether the items on the 25-year-old list are still doing their job of providing tax relief to the poor (and not too much tax relief to the rich) the group has also been asked to explore whether government expenditure programmes such as school feeding could achieve better outcomes than zero-rating certain goods. This is a t...

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