Why do we pay VAT on petrol?

Driving home from work yesterday, and noticing that I will have to fill up (again) soon, I was struck by the question, “why do I have to pay VAT on petrol”. VAT is considered to be a “luxury” tax, a tax on non-essential items. The only way for me to get to work and back, particularly at odd times of the day and night (4am visits to the office being less regular than they once were, but still a possibility, and there is no public transport available at that time, any day of the week) is by car. Why then am I being taxed at 20% for an absolute necessity? Can anyone please let me know? And why aren’t there huge protests over this, surely I should be able to claim the VAT back on the petrol required for me to get to and from work (and therefore be a benefit to the state rather than a drain on it)? In any sane country I would be able to claim all the tax (duty + VAT) back.

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