Former Blue Peter presenter and children’s author Konnie Huq led a delegation to 11 Downing Street today to hand-in a letter signed by 90 MPs calling for VAT on digital books to be scrapped, alongside representatives from leading literacy and accessibility charities. This comes as children’s laureate Cressida Cowell pledges her support for the campaign.
RNIB, the National Literacy Trust and the Publishers Association joined Konnie to present the letter, signed by almost 100 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum. Currently, readers pay 20% VAT on all digital books including ebooks and audiobooks whereas printed books are rightly zero-rated. This digital penalty impacts millions of consumers who need or want to read digitally, including those living with sight loss. The letter calls on this unfair and outdated tax anomaly to end.
It is fantastic to be in Downing Street today to fight to remove the unfair tax on those who need to read digitally. As both an author and a mum I know how important it is for children to grow up reading, regardless of whether this is on paper or screen. I am proud to be joining the Axe the Reading Tax campaign to help all children and encourage politicians to do their bit.
Konnie Huq, television presenter and author
Cressida Cowell , author and Children’s Laureate, said: “I’m proud to support the Axe the Reading Tax campaign. I hope the Government sees sense and gets rid of the tax on ebooks and audiobooks as soon as it can. Taxing reading makes no sense, especially when it is being felt by those with disabilities and children just starting to understand the joy of reading.”
Eleanor Thompson, RNIB Head of Policy and Public Affairs, said: “We are delighted to back the campaign to Axe the Reading Tax and join the push to make reading more inclusive. At the moment, only around ten per cent of all titles are available to blind and partially sighted people in a format they can access. Ereaders and audiobooks allow people with sight loss to enjoy their favourite books just like everybody else and they should not be charged 20 percent more for this.”
It is a long-held principle of successive UK Governments not to tax reading, learning and knowledge. However, as digital reading materials have developed the Government has reneged on this principle by enforcing an unfair 20% tax on digital reading materials.
Last year, the EU Council changed the law to allow member states to reduce the rate of VAT on ebooks and other digital publications. Many countries have made this change, including Belgium, France, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Malta. However, the UK continues to levy a 20% tax on learning.
160 parliamentarians (MPs and Peers) back the campaign to Axe the Reading Tax, along with a growing number of charities and authors, including Stephen Fry