Irish Court rules Subway Sandwiches not made with Bread

Subway Sandwiches

The Supreme Court of Ireland just ruled Subway Sandwiches are not made with bread. You read correctly. What’s important to understand is not the ruling itself but the reason behind the ruling, why is it judges must spend time determining the composition of Subway sandwiches.

The reason the justices were examining the situation is because Ireland has a tax exemption for staple foods like bread but differentiates bread from cake by how much sugar is used in the baking process. A case was brought by Subway wanting a refund for the ingredients they use to make bread. The court ruled the amount of sugar used in making bread for Subway sandwiches is greater than the limit allowed. I’m going to stop examining the actual case here and get to my main point, which has nothing to do with how the bread on Subway sandwiches is prepared.

The problem here is that the courts are looking at the baking process of bread, not what that procedure might or might not be. It’s basically the same reason the United States Supreme Court ruled a tomato is a vegetable. It all has to do with taxes, tariffs, and government intervention.

Now, you are probably thinking, hey, it’s a good thing the government gives tax exempt status to staple foods so that people don’t have to pay extra for a simple meal. I agree. The problem isn’t giving tax exempt status to bread, the problem is taxing food at all. What is the justification for taxes on food?

I’ve written before I’m not completely against taxes. We pay taxes for transport infrastructure because the government uses tax money to build and maintain roads. We find those roads particularly useful and so, rather than have each neighborhood build and maintain their own section of road, we allow the government to tax us for a unified system.

The justification for taxing food is the same as the justification for any product. People need to drive to the store to purchase things. However, the drive to the store to purchase bread is exactly the same as the drive to purchase a chocolate cake. Taxing cake but not bread is an attempt to make people eat in a healthier manner and forces the courts to look into the baking process at Subway, which is time not well spent.

If we decide it is important for people to purchase food and give tax exempt status to those doing so, we should do it across the board. The best solution is to simply stop taxing all food items rather than force the courts to decide what constitutes bread. Simple and efficient, the way government should operate but seldom does.

Tom Liberman