Are we being ripped off if VAT-free ‘children’s’ clothing only goes up to age 12?

WHEN your children are babies, or pre-school, it feels like they cost more money than you could ever earn.

Nappies, special food, prams, cots, car seats, milk, clothes that they grow out of in a week and then perhaps nursery fees that cripple the family budget – even though childcare staff are among some of the lowest paid workers.

You know that when they come out of nappies, or start school, the bills should reduce, shouldn’t they?

School uniform is an expensive business, even when you don’t have to buy for three (or in our case, four from September). But at least we are told children’s clothes aren’t subject to 20 per cent VAT.

But what constitutes children’s clothes? Under 14, apparently.

Our eldest is 14, his brother just about to turn 13. Still children, right?

Not when it comes to clothing I’m afraid. My kids aren’t enormous, pretty average in height, but the eldest both measure in at size 14-15. Many of their friends their age have been six-foot tall for some time already, and they aren’t even 15 yet. Their parents will already have been doing what we are now having to do: buy them clothes and shoes intended for adults.

Jed and Doug in cheaper attire

The choice of clothes for boys aged 11-16 is very limited. Unlike girls, who seem to have racks of options, few clothing stores seem to cater for teen boys, which seems bonkers to me when they are more fashion conscious than ever before. They are also having frequent growth spurts not seen since they were newborns, and seem to need new trousers and shoes every other fortnight.

Why are the retailers so terrible at catering for them? Surprisingly, Next is rubbish for boys over 10, as are M&S, BHS, TK Maxx, John Lewis, Matalan, Debenhams, Primark, New Look and the supermarkets.

H&M are one of the few places I don’t have a fight on my hands when shopping, but they aren’t well stocked or cheap. As for shoes, they both have bigger feet than me and I have to now pay adult prices for adult-sized shoes (although half-decent children’s shoes are sometimes more expensive than adults’ anyway).

Adult clothes don’t quite fit either. The legs are too long, the tops too baggy, but it’s all we can get.

So who is getting the benefit of this zero VAT? Someone’s missing a trick.

Our kids have always had to put up with hand-me-downs, except Jed as the eldest, but even he has to wear second-hand now. Don’t tell him, but I’ve found that I’ve shrunk so many items of Bloke’s clothes they now fit his sons.

Thankfully, for the kids, he’s not quite got to the elasticated trouser and cardigan stage yet.

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