Publishing Industry Calls On Chancellor To Axe Reading Tax On Digital Publications

The publishing industry representing the publishers of newspapers, books, journals and magazines has joined forces to call on Chancellor Philip Hammond to urgently bring the UK into the digital age by axing the reading tax on digital publications.

In a joint letter signed by News Media Association chairman David Dinsmore, The Publishers Association president Charlie Redmayne, and The Professional Publishers Association chairman Marcus Rich, the £17 billion sector called on the Government to extend VAT zero-rate to digital products.

The letter notes the Chancellor’s commitment in the last Budget statement to evolve the UK tax system for the digital age and that doing so “is how we will deliver the high-wage high-skill economy of the future.”

In the letter, the publishers said: “We applaud this statement and the Government’s commitment to updating the tax system for the digital age. One key area where this is urgently needed is to extend the VAT zero-rate that has always been afforded to printed versions of our newspapers, magazines, books and journals, to our digital products.

“It is an anomaly that a digital magazine or journal subscription, newspaper paywall, or ebook is subject to a 20 per cent price penalty, simply because our tax system has failed to keep up with technology by recognising the way people increasingly choose to consume news and information in today’s world.”

The letter also notes recommendations from the Cairncross Review and the House of Commons DCMS Select Committee in its report on disinformation and ‘fake news’, to extending VAT zero-rating to digital newspapers and magazines, including digital-only news publications. 

The publishers added: “An increasing number of countries across Europe have implemented this reform since the passage of an amendment to the European VAT Directive last year. In order that the UK does not fall behind our European neighbours in the digital age, and to bring fairness to an outdated system, we call on the Government to act on these recommendations and commit to axing the reading tax at the earliest opportunity.”