The United Kingdom government is under pressure to remove the VAT on digital audiobooks. The movement to abolish the tax stems from authors and publishing organizations. This is not as farfetched as it sounds, in 2020 the VAT was changed from 20% to 0% on ebooks.
Liz Truss has just become the Prime Minster of the United Kingdom, yesterday after meeting the Queen at Balmoral to make it official. Michelle Donelan has been named as Truss’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport. With inflation and the cost of print getting out of hand, everyone is flocking to digital. Dan Conway, CEO of the trade organization the Publishers Association, said “top of the list is scrapping audiobook VAT”, which he described as the “last remaining tax on reading”.
Ruth Howells, Deputy Director of External Affairs at the Publishers Association explained: “It is illogical and unfair that audiobooks are subject to VAT when print books and ebooks rightly are not and this is something we strongly believe should change.” She goes on to say that: “Audiobooks reach a wide range of consumers, including many people who don’t buy other formats of books. Importantly, audiobooks are also a more accessible format for many people, including those with sight loss. We are continuing to engage the government on this issue and ask that this inconsistency is corrected as soon as possible.”
The UK’s leading charity for those who experience sight loss, The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) added that: “Printed books, magazines and newspapers have been VAT exempt since the 1970s because it was recognized that there shouldn’t be a tax on reading. Audiobooks are the preferred format of many people with sight loss and allow them to enjoy their favorite titles in the same way as everyone else. The VAT exemption needs to extend to audiobooks and RNIB continues to urge the Government to do this.”
Audiobook sales are booming in the UK and the removal of tax on each title, would lower the costs for customers and likely drive more sales. Last year the format generated 151 million British pounds, up from 133 million in the previous year.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.