Publishers are urging the UK government to support measures that would allow VAT to be removed on e-books, audiobooks and online newspaper and magazine subscriptions in the UK.
At a European Union meeting today (25th May) taking place in Brussels, finance ministers will consider new proposals that would allow all member states to reduce the amount of VAT they apply to e-publications, or not tax them at all.
In the UK this would mean a 20% reduction in the tax currently applied to digital publications which is not applied to print books.
Stephen Lotinga, c.e.o. of the Publishers Association, called the tax on e-books "unfair" and said the government must "do everything it can" to scrap the tax on e-books.
“It makes no sense in the modern world that readers are being penalised with an additional 20% tax for choosing to embrace digital," he said. “Whether a book, newspaper or magazine is electronic does not change the principle that we should not be taxing reading and learning.
“This would also show the world that the UK is really serious about building a forward-thinking digital economy.”
Nicola Solomon, chief executive of the Society of Authors, also supported the call.
"I feel very strongly that we should be removing VAT from e-books," she told The Bookseller. The argument was always you shouldn't be taxing knowledge. One of the problems of having a VAT on e-books is actually in many areas now we're seeing a lot of packaged materials where the book comes with free downloads. So if that's the case, sorting the VAT is a nightmare.
"I think it makes no sense and it makes no sense in terms of the pricing model. How can you say you don't pay tax on a textbook because it's knowledge but you do if you get in in a format that's convenient for you? I'd really like to see the government support it."