HM Treasury announced yesterday that its March Budget plan to scrap 20% VAT on ebooks and other digital publications will be fast-tracked to today (1 May 2020). In his first budget Chancellor Rishi Sunak had scheduled VAT on digital publications to be reduced to 0% from 1 December, but the new rate will now come into effect immediately, bringing digital publications in line with their print equivalents.
The Treasury said that ‘on average publishers are reporting an increase of about a third in e-book consumption during the crisis’ and that they ‘want to make it as easy as possible for people across the UK to get hold of the books they want whilst they are staying at home and saving lives’.
Alongside members, publishers and booksellers, we have campaigned for many years to end an illogical tax that treats works so differently. Commenting on the announcement, Society of Authors’ Chief Executive Nicola Solomon said:
This is excellent news for authors. We have long said that taxes on books are taxes on learning, and we have campaigned for many years for all formats – including digital publications – to be exempt from VAT. Bringing forward the zero-rating of VAT on ebooks to 1 May comes at a critical time for publishers, booksellers, authors and the readers who enjoy their work. We will be pressing for publishers and booksellers to pass on a 20% reduction on ebooks to readers straight away.
Speaking to The Bookseller, Stephen Lotinga, CEO of The Publishers Association, which led the Axe the Reading Tax campaign, said he hopes ‘that it will enable more people to easily access and benefit from the comfort, entertainment and knowledge that books provide’.