A court in London has ruled that Pringles, the iconic snacks in the ubiquitous red tube, are not potato chips.

Really.

Apparently, there are not enough potatoes in Pringles to have them legally qualify as “potato chips” or “potato crisps.” That matters to the tax office because, in the UK, most food is exempt from a steep 17.5% sales tax. The taxing authorities, however, claimed that Pringles fell under an exception for potato chips, sticks or puffs and “similar products made from the potato, or from potato flour, or from potato starch.”

Procter & Gamble, Pringles parent company, said no. The company claimed that Pringles are not made like potato chips since they are cooked from baked dough and not slices of potato; in fact, Pringles are just 42% potato. Additionally, Pringles have a shelf life of 15 months, versus four months for potato crisps – chew on that for a bit.

The company further argued that potato chips “give a sharply crunchy sensation under the tooth and have to be broken down into jagged pieces when chewed,” while Pringles are “designed to melt down on the tongue.”

The courts agreed: Pringles is not made largely from potatoes, does not look, feel or taste like a potato chip and is, therefore, tax-exempt.

I’m not quite sure what kind of victory that is, really. Pringles “wins” because it proved that it’s not the product that it markets itself as… Or does it? On the Pringles website, Pringles is consistently referred to as a snack – and not as potato chips. And now, legally, a Pringles chip has been ruled as something (I’m not sure what) other than a potato chip. My four-year-old however, begs to differ: just this morning, she declared them “potato chips.” I think I just discovered the secret to the UK Tax Office’s appeal…

(Hat Tip: TaxProf Blog)

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Author

Kelly Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer and podcaster.

4 Comments

  1. I just wish I could do something similar with my house here in the states. What else could I call it besides a house and not have to pay property taxes on it

  2. Amazing. Just amazing.

    Did they prove the “snacks” are food, then? Or did they prove they are not chips and not food?

    Will they be moved to the same aisle of the store as the WD-40? LOL

  3. Chris Coyle Reply

    When Pringles were originally introduced nationwide in the early 70s, they were challenged by traditional “potato chip” makers as not being pototo chips. Hence, they were forced to advertise the product as potato crisps. (Thank you Food Network)

    Apparently, they’re just crisps now.

  4. Jennifer Vanderhook Reply

    I see this is an old post but I must say that if you ever have a mouth without teeth then you most definitely would agree that Pringles are not like a potato chip. Potato chips are really hard and rough. Even when crunched up in to crumbs they will still scratch the heck out of your mouth. But Pringles on the other hand are much easier on your mouth because they are a mixture of potatoes and flour as well as other ingredients mixed in to a dough then rolled out and shaped in to a “chip” or an oval shape ,.then baked. Therefore when you eat them they crumble in your mouth allowing a person without teeth or lack of teeth to comfortably Chew them up and enjoy them without cutting up their mouth like you typical Potato Chip. A potato chip is simply a slice of potato thinly cut then fried or baked as it is. So I agree they are no Potato Chip. And if you ever can’t chew you most likely will agree they definitely are not potato chips…And incase you couldn’t tell a funyon is not an onion. I mean seriously have you ever wanted a Pringles? They are not like potato chips. I honestly don’t even see where the confusion comes from. So I definitely consider it a win on Procter & Gamble’s side because they are a mixture of ingredients which include potato that are “processed” and shaped. Oh and Veggie Straws are also mixtures of vegetables and flour, and processed so don’t freak out when you learn they are not all veggie. What a joke to even waste the courts time with a lawsuit in the first place…

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