Publishers Association pushes Johnson to scrap reading tax

Publishers Association pushes Johnson to scrap reading tax

The Publishers Association (PA) has upped its Axe the Reading Tax Campaign, as a new survey has found that 71% of adults think that VAT should not be charged on any reading materials—digital or print. The survey also reveals that 50% of respondents said that a cut to the tax would inspire them to buy more books.

The PA is renewing its Axe the Reading Tax campaign to urge Boris Johnson's government “to modernise the tax system to reflect the increasing numbers of people using new technology to access books”, following the survey of 2,050 people by polling company ComRes, revealed on Monday (23rd December). 

It has been more than a year since the Economic & Financial Affairs Council, which is part of the Council of the European Union, changed the law to allow member states to reduce the rate of VAT on e-books. Many countries have incorporated the change including Belgium, France, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Malta. However, the UK has not reduced what the PA  calls the “hidden reading tax”. Research in October from consultancy Deloitte, "Plateauing at the peak: The state of the smartphone", showed the 20% tax affects at least one in five UK households and four in five adults with access to a smartphone.

The Axe the Reading Tax campaign, which the PA said is backed by 117 parliamentarians, is campaigning to remove the tax on e-publications which hits public sector bodies like the NHS costing them between £50m to £55m a year.  The campaign is supported by the The Royal National Institute of Blind People and charity Listening Books. It is also backed by the National Literacy Trust, BookTrust and the Publishers Association among others.

Stephen Lotinga, c.e.o. of the PA, said: "Families across the UK who have received e-readers this year for Christmas have been stuck with an unfair 20% tax on all the books they buy. This is an unfair penalty on people who need or prefer to read digitally. The government doesn’t tax books and newspapers in order to promote access to reading, learning and knowledge. However, as digital reading materials have developed the government has broken this promise by enforcing an unfair 20% tax on digital reading.

"The tax system needs to be modernised to remove this barrier to childhood literacy and promote access to books for all. This is why we are calling on the government to listen to the public and Axe the Reading Tax."

In October, TV presenter Konnie Huq presented a letter to Parliament calling on the government to change the law on the tax. Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell said at the time: “I hope the government sees sense and gets rid of the tax on e-books 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.”