Print books will probably never go out of style but it’s no secret that their digital counterparts are becoming an increasingly more appealing alternative for a lot of people. However, in spite of their rising popularity, ebooks and other digital publications are still not considered on par with traditional books in the UK. At least as far as taxes are concerned. While printed books have been exempt from taxes since the 70s, digital publications are still subject to a 20% VAT. But that may change very soon thanks to new EU legislation and the “Axe the Reading Tax” initiative.
Publishers are Urging the Government to Change its Stance on Taxing Digital Publications
Axe the Reading Tax is a campaign launched by the Publishers Association in an attempt to convince the UK government to remove the VAT from all digital publications. This includes not only ebooks but also audiobooks, textbooks, research journals, and subscriptions to online newspapers and magazines. The Publishers Association sees the current tax on digital publications as “illogical and unfair.”
Moreover, the PA argues that the tax discriminates against readers with disabilities who rely heavily on audiobooks or the adjustable print size available on electronic devices. Young readers are also affected by the VAT. According to a recent study by the National Literacy Trust, 45% of children prefer digital publications over print books.
In addition to the Publishers Association, the initiative is also supported by BookTrust, the Society of Authors, the National Literacy Trust, and the Professional Publishers Association (PPA). Certain members of the UK government like Don Foster are also showing their support for this campaign. As far as the general populace is concerned, around 63% of UK citizens agree that taxing digital publications is unnecessary. This is according to a study conducted by UK-based market research firm ComRes.
Taxing Digital Publications is no Longer Mandatory in the EU
More good news for Axe the Reading Tax supporters came in earlier this week thanks to new EU legislation. The legislation is now in effect and allows member states to lower or remove VAT from digital publications. Countries like France, Italy, and Iceland, have already announced that they will reduce taxes in the near future. The UK government has not yet taken advantage of the new legislation but hopefully that will soon change.
According to PA President and Harper Collins CEO Charlie Redmayne, “In or out of the EU, whatever kind of Brexit is approaching, the opportunity exists to change this anomaly of the tax system and we should seize it”. He also noted that the tax on digital publications is, “illogical, unfair and discriminates against all kinds of readers”.
If you want to support the Axe the Reading Tax initiative, you can start by signing this petition.