Starting in January 2015 VAT prices on e-Books will be changing all over Europe. The big change that is occurring is the amount of VAT you will pay will be determinate on the country you live in, instead of the originating country where the content is sold. In the UK for example, the tax will increase from 3% on each Amazon title to 20%. Will this create a boom period of VPN services and will customers be engaging in this type of behavior in order to save a ton of money?
Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo have been avoiding paying high amounts of VAT for years by selling from countries like Luxembourg. This change in EU law is designed to close that specific tax loophole, and provide a level playing-field for everyone.
How much extra will customers be paying now for e-Books? Lets take a brief look at what is happening at Amazon. Each digital title from Amazon.co.uk will be priced for 20% VAT and sales in the Irish Republic will pay VAT at 23%. Sales from Amazon.de will be priced at the German 19% VAT, while sales in Luxembourg will be at 3% VAT. Amazon.es will be charging 21% VAT and Amazon.it will be charging 4% VAT.
Digital readers on average will be paying 17% more for each e-Book they purchase and this has the average e-Book lover really riled up. There are alternatives, so do not fret. If you have never heard of it before, a virtual private network (VPN) allows users to make some small changes to their modem and router. It basically allows you to change your local internet address in your home country, to another. If you live in the UK for example, you can establish a VPN to Luxembourg, and only pay 3% VAT on all of your e-Books.
People using VPN’s to access content not in their geographic area is really nothing new. People have been using it for over a decade in China to bypass the Great Firewall and access the internet. Thousands of Canadians use it on their televisions to access to expanded content from Netflix, Hulu+ or WWE Network. International users are also using VPN addresses in order to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, Scribd and Oyster, which have a limited footprint outside the US.
It is legal to use a VPN to order to save money on purchasing e-Books? Well, pretending to be based in another country is classed as tax avoidance, which is legal under European Law. So fundamentally, many users agree that using a VPN to save on VAT is something they intend on doing.
Will readers be flocking to VPN services within the next few weeks to save money on VAT? That is the question. I know the main reason why people flocked to digital initially was to save money on buying books. The average hardcover new release normally costs $30, whereas the digital variant is often $9.99 to $12.99. Simply, your dollar stretches further when you buy the e-Book version, but in Europe this will all change.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and Verge.