Digital VAT

Ever since the UK’s VAT regime was established in the 1970s, printed books, magazines and newspapers have been VAT exempt. 

It was recognised that books and knowledge are essential to people’s lives and therefore applying a tax on reading would be unfair and inappropriate. 

This long-standing belief has helped ensure that reading and learning remains affordable and accessible to people of all ages, incomes and abilities. 

However, digital publications have 20% VAT applied in the UK. This includes formats such as ebooks, audiobooks and digital research journals. This tax anomaly between print and digital is unfair and illogical.  

Historically EU legislation prohibited zero-rating VAT on digital publications, but the EU changed the law in 2018 to allow member states flexibility to lower rates of VAT. 

Viewing print and digital differently not only drives up the price and stifles innovation, but also unfairly impacts groups of people for whom digital formats provide access to a world of words that is otherwise closed to them. It also increases the price universities and students pay to access digital publications.  

We campaign on this issue along with a number of other partners and it is a core part of our work.  

Axe the Reading Tax calls for the removal of VAT on all digital publications: ebooks, audiobooks, research journals, textbooks and educational materials, newspapers and magazines.