Today, former Blue Peter presenter and children’s author Konnie Huq led a delegation to 11 Downing Street 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 The letter calls on this unfair and outdated tax anomaly to end.
Television presenter and author Konnie Huq said:
“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.”
RNIB Head of Policy and Public Affairs Eleanor Thompson 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.”
Author and Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell 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.”
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 MPs back the campaign to Axe the Reading Tax, along with a growing number of charities and authors, including Stephen Fry.
Ruth Howells, Deputy Director of External Affairs, the Publishers Association
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Notes to editors
- Konnie Huq is available for media interviews following the hand-in and images of her and the delegation at the door of Number 11 will be made available.
- The delegation handing in the letter to Downing Street includes Eleanor Thompson (RNIB), Jonathan Douglas (NLT) and Stephen Lotinga (the Publishers Association).
- The letter is signed by 90 MPs including former cabinet ministers Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, Rt Hon David Mundell MP, Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP and former HM Treasury minister Rt Hon Mel Stride MP – the letter and full signatory list is available on request.
- The Axe the Reading Tax campaign calls for the removal of VAT on all digital publications: ebooks, audiobooks, research journals, textbooks and educational materials, newspapers and magazines. While printed books are rightly zero-rated, their digital equivalents are subject to 20% VAT – a penalty impacting millions of consumers, including everyone who reads or learns digitally. More information on the campaign to Axe the Reading Tax can be found at www.axethereadingtax.org, @AxeReadingTax on Twitter or @AxetheReadingTax on Facebook.
About the Publishers Association
The Publishers Association represents book and journal publishers in the UK, spanning fiction and non-fiction, academic and education publishing in print and digital. UK publishing has a turnover of £6bn, with export income accounting for almost 60% of revenues. Our membership includes global companies such as Elsevier, Wiley, Pearson, Penguin Random House and Hachette, as well as many independent publishing houses and university presses. Our objective as an association is to provide our members with the influence, insight and support necessary to compete and prosper.
www.publishers.org.uk | @PublishersAssoc