Are Pringles potato chips? From 2007 to 2009, that catechism bedeviled board at three altered levels of the British judiciary, arch to a alternation of head-scratchingly absurd acknowledged proceedings. The stakes, however, were annihilation but serious: The cardinal put hundreds of millions of dollars on the line.
The catechism revolved about Britain’s value-added tax, or VAT. According to the 1994 VAT Act, any artefact that is “wholly, or essentially wholly, fabricated from the potato” was accountable to a 17.5 percent tax. In 2007, Britain’s VAT and Duties Tribunal bent that Pringles fell beneath the tax’s umbrella—and accepted the chipman payeth.
Procter & Gamble, who endemic Pringles at the time, angrily disagreed. They argued that Pringles were alone 42 percent potato flour, with the blow mostly a slurry of aureate starch, blah and rice flour, and vegetable oil. The bite food, they said, could not be classified as a potato dent because, clashing a absolute potato chip, its all-embracing capacity and appearance were “not begin in nature.”
In accession to actuality unappetizing, this altercation was a apparent about-face from the company’s aboriginal position. When the bite aboriginal hit shelves in the mid-1960s, Pringles were proudly marketed as “potato chips.” (More specifically, as contemporary potato chips.) They did this admitting appear complaints from aggressive chip-makers, who argued that the bite food—which is adapted from a thin, mashed potato-like dough—should be classified differently.
But now that millions of dollars were on the line, Procter & Gamble’s attorneys aboveboard accepted Pringles’s different abode as a “not-really-a-chip” chip. The VAT and Duties Tribunal, however, didn’t buy it. In a accommodation that sounds added like a Zen kōan, the tax masters argued that Pringles were chips because they were “made from potato abrade in the faculty that one cannot say that it is not fabricated from potato flour.”
To that, the British High Court of Justice basically replied: Wow, that’s confusing! Now, alibi us, we would like to top it.
The afterward year, the High Court stepped in and antipodal the Tribunal’s decision. First, the Court argued that Pringles were added affiliated to a block or aliment than a chip. (Who, of course, can balloon their aboriginal altogether Pringle?) Furthermore, the Court declared that a Pringle—which we should accent is, in fact, mostly fabricated from potatoes—was not “made from the potato.” Their acumen invoked Greek metaphysics, claiming that Pringles did not acquire the appropriate bulk of (and this is their word) “potatoness.”
The altercation didn’t end there. In 2009, the case confused up addition administrative wrung, this time to Britain’s Supreme Court of Judicature. The lower court’s abstract arguments about “potatoness” were abundant to accomplish Aristotle’s academician hurt, the justices moaned. They criticized the antecedent cardinal for its “overelaborate, about mind-numbing acknowledged analysis” and dubbed the affair at duke a “short applied catechism calling for a abbreviate applied answer.”
Procter & Gamble’s attorneys bore bottomward anyway. They claimed that a artefact fabricated from “a cardinal of cogent capacity … cannot be said to be ‘made from’ one of them.” Lord Justice Jacob alleged this altercation hogwash. If that were true, he argued, again “a marmalade fabricated application both oranges and grapefruit would be fabricated of neither—a nonsense conclusion.”
After alive itself in and out of semantic pretzels, the Court said the easiest band-aid to Chipgate was to address to a academic child: If you asked an 8-year-old to explain what a Pringle was, what would he or she say?
The catechism of a Pringle’s identity, the Court argued, “would apparently be answered in a added accordant and alive way by a adolescent customer than by a aliment scientist or a comestible pedant.”
In added words, a dent is a dent is a chip—Pringles amid them. With that, Procter & Gamble had to pay $160 actor in taxes.
Though accepted faculty prevailed, it doesn’t consistently end that way: About the time of the abundant Pringle debate, the accompaniment of Oklahoma was active confidently declaring watermelon a vegetable.
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