Maria Caulfield MP welcomes early scrapping of reading tax

Maria Caulfield MP has welcomed plans to scrap VAT on e-books and e-newspapers being significantly fast-tracked in a boost to readers and publishers during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the zero rate of VAT will now apply to all e-publications from 1 May 2020 – seven months ahead of schedule – potentially slashing the cost of a £12 e-book by £2 and e-newspapers subscriptions by up to £25 a year.

Maria Caulfield MP said “Whilst many people still love a physical book during the lockdown they can be hard to come by with bookshops closed and some shops not delivering. Many people are therefore turning to their tablets and e-readers to get their daily newspapers, magazines or books.”

“It is therefore excellent news that the Government has brought forward this plan to cut VAT on e-books, e-newspapers, e-magazines and even academic e-journals.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said “We 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.”

“That is why we have fast tracked plans to scrap VAT on all e-publications, which will make it cheaper for publishers to sell their books, magazines and newspapers.”

With the nation staying in their homes during lockdown and schools closed, millions have been relying more on e-publications to pass time, home school and read the news. The Chancellor has opted to bring the zero rating forward to make entertainment more affordable for readers who are rightly staying at home during the coronavirus crisis – and are more reliant on e-publications as a result.

The price of an e-book will now be VAT-free. The e-book of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and The Light could be over £2 cheaper while the average tax annual saving on a typical e-newspaper or e-magazine subscription could be £25 or £20 respectively.

The move will be a boost both to readers in the form of cheaper e-books and e-newspapers, and the publishing industry who should benefit from a boost in sales.

On average publishers are reporting an increase of about a third in e-book consumption during the crisis, with some publishers reporting as much as a 50% increase. In the last seven days alone, subscriptions to TI media are up 200%, whilst Hearst’s new subscribers were up more than 100% year-on-year across the second half of March.