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EU vote paves way for UK removal of tax on eBooks

Publishers have this week called for the UK government to introduce measures that would allow VAT to be removed on ebooks, audio books and online newspaper and magazine subscriptions in the UK. At the Economic and Financial Affairs Council meeting in Brussels, a longstanding proposal was approved that would allow all EU member states to reduce VAT on epublications (digital versions of books, journals, magazines and newspapers). In the UK this would mean a 20% reduction in the tax currently applied to digital publications, which is not applied to print publications.


“The government must act now to remove this unfair and illogical tax on ebooks, magazine and newspaper online subscriptions. It makes no sense in the modern world that readers are being penalised with an additional 20% tax for choosing to embrace digital. We should not be taxing reading and learning.”

Stephen Lotinga, CEO of the Publishers Association

Despite Britain’s plans to leave the EU, today’s decision from the ECOFIN committee sees the spotlight fall on Philip Hammond, who is under increasing pressure to announce plans to scrap this tax as part of his budget announcement on October 29. There is a genuine fear that if the chancellor does not act upon this week’s developments, the UK digital policy will fall behind its European competitors.


At present, UK readers pay 20% more for ebooks, audiobooks, journals, magazines and newspapers than they do for their identical, printed equivalents. Not only is the current discrepancy illogical, it is also discriminatory as it hits vulnerable groups hardest. These include the blind or visually impaired, who listen to audiobooks; students, who pay more to read academic journals; and young people from disadvantaged households, for whom ebooks are increasingly the first or only kind of book they have access to in the home. According to recent figures released by the National Literacy Trust, 80% of children read ebooks, whereas only 60% read books in print.


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