The Federation of European Publishers (FEP) has spoken out against the delay in the adoption of a proposal to allow VAT on e-books to be reduced to match the rate on printed books.
Last year, the European Parliament voted to allow individual EU countries to reduce the rate of VAT on e-books to match the rate on printed books. Previously, e-books have not been eligible for a reduced VAT rate - which printed publications such as books and newspapers enjoy - because they are classified as an “electronic service”. In the UK, for example, e-books attract a 20% VAT charge, where print books have a zero-rate of VAT, which has long been seen as unfair by the book trade.
As statement from the FEP - of which the Publishers Association is a member - said that the book industry "wholeheartedly" welcomed the move as a "decisive step towards the end of the unjustified discrimination in the fiscal treatment of books in different formats".
However, the FEP has criticised the delay in adoption of this proposal and is arguing for a "swift conclusion" to it.
"One year later, we regret to note that not only has this proposal not been adopted yet, but it is not even on the agenda of the Economic and Financial Affairs (ECOFIN) Council or its related preparatory bodies, despite it being a positive, forward-looking measure, aimed at encouraging reading and boosting e-commerce, flexible, and in addition voluntary", the body said.
"With this declaration, therefore, the Federation of European Publishers and its 29 members – national associations of publishers of books, learning materials, and/or journals in a range of media from all over Europe – gathered in their General Assembly, would like to express their disappointment at this unwarranted delay and strongly encourage all parties involved to work towards a swift conclusion of the process and a positive outcome for the European book sector, culture and citizens."
In May the PA lobbied all three political parties on the subject of reducing VAT on e-books to 0% as part of its manifesto, but the rate remains at 20%.
At the time, c.e.o. Stephen Lotinga said: “When VAT was first introduced politicians were absolutely clear that it should not apply to books so that it didn’t discourage reading and learning," said Lotinga. "The development of technology has led to the totally unfair situation where those who choose to read digital publications are penalised by the taxman. This clearly flies in the face of the government’s aim to boost literacy, education and culture. This is an unjust tax on knowledge and should be abolished.”