Axe the Reading Tax! End prejudice against digital readers

Martin Reed

Martin Reed

Martin leads the SoA's Communications team. He oversees our strategic communications and campaign-based activities, including PR, social media, events and partnerships.
The UK Government has the opportunity to overturn an illogical and manifestly unfair tax system that discriminates against digital readers.

Historically, EU legislation has prohibited zero-rating VAT on ebooks and epublications. So whilst the UK’s VAT regime has rightly exempted printed books, magazines and newspapers from VAT since the 1970s, a 20% tax on reading and on knowledge in the digital world has continued to be levied at Brussels’ behest.

This backward looking tax affects us all – not least the public institutions who end up paying millions of pounds in VAT to read digital publications and those in our society who rely on ebooks to make reading more accessible.

But now is the time to right this wrong. Common sense has prevailed and the EU has finally agreed that Member States will have the flexibility to set their own VAT rates on ebooks and epublications. As a nation of best-selling authors and voracious readers, it’s only appropriate that we take the lead. The UK risks falling behind the rest of Europe if we don’t act fast.

We are supporting the Publishers Association’s campaign to Axe the Reading Tax. The Chancellor has an opportunity to remove the 20% VAT rate on digital publications in his upcoming Budget – make sure your MP knows about it by signing the petition here.

27 February 2023

Sir Mike Penning MP submits an Early Day Motion and asks our members to write to their own MPs about the tax on audiobooks

22 November 2019

We call on the next Government to support Britain’s cultural heart: with funding and legislation, with transparency and ambition.

11 October 2018

It has been a longstanding principle that VAT is zero-rated on sales of printed books, in order to prevent a tax on reading and a tax on knowledge.