Following legislative change in the European Union (EU) on 2 October 2018, EU Member States can align the VAT rates for eBooks and audiobooks with physical books. A number of countries have been quick of the mark but in others publishers are campaigning hard.
On 1 July 2019, Finland, Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic (as well as extra-EU Norway) followed the lead of Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and Portugal to reduce their VAT rates on eBooks. Austria, Germany and the Netherlands are also due to reduce their VAT rates on eBooks in early 2020.
The new rates as of 1 January are:
- Finland - 10%
- Sweden - 6%
- Poland – 5%
- Czech Republic – 10%
- Norway – 0%
Among those European countries that have not shifted their VAT rates, or made commitments to do so, are Latvia and the UK with the publishers’ associations in both countries campaigning for change.
Publishing Perspectives reported on the situation in Latvia which saw VAT on print books rise from 5% to 21% in 2008 with subsequent falls to 12% and no change in sight on eBooks which are taxed at 21%.
The Publishers Association in the UK has been campaigning to Axe the Reading Tax and wrote to the new chancellor of the exchequer calling for VAT on eBooks to be removed. A BBC South report also featured the campaign.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Mary from Poole wants VAT taken off ebooks - report from <a href="https://twitter.com/BBCSouthNews?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BBCSouthNews</a> <a href="https://t.co/udyAbjXu0a">pic.twitter.com/udyAbjXu0a</a></p>— Peter Henley (@BBCPeterH) <a href="https://twitter.com/BBCPeterH/status/1164546478053974016?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 22, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>