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Stephen Fry among authors calling for e-book VAT to be scrapped

Stephen Fry called for Sajid Javid to scrap VAT on e-books (PA)
Stephen Fry called for Sajid Javid to scrap VAT on e-books (PA)

Stephen Fry and Fifty Shades Of Grey author EL James are among nearly 700 leading writers calling for Chancellor Sajid Javid to scrap VAT on e-books.

They claim the current rate of 20% could stop “young readers, those from low income backgrounds, and those who struggle to read print from experiencing the joys of reading”.

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

EL James book signing – London
Fifty Shades Of Grey author EL James (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The letter, sent to the Sunday Times, was also signed by former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq, Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, The Girl On The Train author Paula Hawkins and Queen of Crime Val McDermid.

An excerpt says: “Reading is one of the greatest pleasures there is. Books are a passport to other worlds, to other ways of life. They help people develop empathy, offer comfort, inspire and challenge.

“It is vital that everybody can access the joy and opportunity of reading; regardless of their age, income or physical capability.

Cabinet meeting
Chancellor Sajid Javid (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“VAT is rightly not applied to print books and digital formats should be treated in the same way.”

It continues: “Young people are increasingly reading using phones, ereaders and audio devices. Digital formats can enable reluctant readers to engage with, and benefit from, books.

“There are many people in the UK who are living with a visual impairment or a disability that prevents them from being able to use print books who are taxed unfairly by this policy.”

The letter marks the start of a campaign by the Publishers Association ahead of the Budget next month.

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