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UK Budget: Crime author Val McDermid welcomes decision to kill off VAT on ebooks

Scottish crime writer Val McDermid,at Glamis Castle.
Scottish crime writer Val McDermid,at Glamis Castle.

Fife-born crime writer Val McDermid has welcomed Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s decision to kill off VAT on ebooks.

From December 1, the 20% VAT on all e-publications, including books, magazines and newspapers will be scrapped.

Ms McDermid was one of a number of high-profile authors who had backed the Axe the Reading Tax campaign.

She said she was “absolutely delighted” at the decision to scrap the tax.

Ms McDermid said: “It was an illogical tax — a tax on what form you read something rather than on content. Anything that makes it easier and access books is a good thing.”

The best-selling author added: “It was a tax that particularly hit poorer people and people with young children because so many kids read on screens or on tablets.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak received cheers when he announced he was scrapping VAT on e-publications: House of Commons/PA Wire

Announcing the move during his Budget speech, Mr Sunak said: “A world class education will help the next generation thrive and nothing could be more fundamental to that than reading. And yet digital publications are subject to VAT. That can’t be right.

“So today I’m abolishing the reading tax. From December 1, just in time for Christmas, books, newspapers, magazines or academic journals, however they are read will have no VAT charge whatsoever.”

He also used the opportunity to mock Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell.

He said: “There will be no VAT on historical fiction by Hilary Mantel, manuals or textbooks like Gray’s Anatomy, or indeed works of fantasy like John McDonnell’s Economics For The Many”.

Anything that makes it easier and access books is a good thing.”

Val McDermid

Books and newspapers have been exempt from VAT since the introduction of the tax in 1973.

In 2018, the European Union passed legislation that allowed its member states to remove or to apply lower VAT to electronic publications.

France, Italy, Belgium and Iceland were among those who agreed they would lower taxes, but the UK did not follow suit, with readers continuing to pay 20% VAT on digital publications.

The official Axe The Reading Tax Twitter account posted: “We are thrilled that VAT will be removed from e-publications following the new Budget. This will mark an end to illogically taxing people who need or prefer to read digitally.

“Thank you so much to all the authors, organisations, parliamentarians and members of the public who called on the Chancellor to remove this 20% tax that acts as a barrier to literacy and discriminates against people who struggle to use or handle printed books.”

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