Friday, 14 Jun 2024

MPs call to scrap ‘unfair’ 20 percent VAT on audiobooks

Pressure is mounting on the Government to scrap the 20 percent tax on audiobooks that campaigners say punishes people who have lost their sight.

Charities, leading Conservatives and major organisations in the literary world are pressing for the Government to give audiobooks the same zero-VAT status as paper books.

A debate in Parliament has been secured for next month by Sir Mike Penning, former minister for disabled people. His call for VAT to be scrapped is backed by Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the powerful 1922 committee of backbench MPs.

Sir Mike, who has dyslexia, said: “When I was first contacted by a constituent telling me those with sight loss, dyslexia, and other disabilities are charged 20 percent extra for their books, I could not believe it. Yet it is true.”

Fifty-seven MPs have now joined a joint call for the VAT to be axed.

Sir Graham said: “Rightly, VAT is not levied on printed books. It is time we brought audio books into line to end this unfair treatment of those with impaired vision.”

Cathy Yelf, chief executive of the Macular Society, stressed the importance of audiobooks.

She said: “Audiobooks are an essential source of entertainment and information for everyone and many people with sight loss have no choice but to read books in this way; they shouldn’t be penalised financially.”

Eleanor Thompson, head of policy for the Royal National Institute of Blind People, also pressed for a change in the tax rules.

She said: “Reading is vital for knowledge and for leisure, and scrapping VAT on audiobooks is a no-brainer. The Government has previously decided reading’s so important we shouldn’t be taxed when doing it, and if you choose to read a physical book or an e-book you won’t pay VAT, so why doesn’t this apply to blind and partially sighted people using audio?”

Nicola Solomon, chief executive of the Society of Authors, called for MPs to get behind a “common sense approach of a consistent system of tax for all books”.

Describing the VAT charge as a “illogical tax”, she said: “Not only does charging VAT on audiobooks stifle digital innovation, it inflates the cost of reading for visually impaired, dyslexic or other reading disabled people.”

Other supporters of a change in the law include former Culture Secretary Sir John Whittingdale and scores of Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrat, DUP and Independent MPs.

The case for scrapping the tax will be debated on June 15. In March, Treasury minister Victoria Atkins said there were “no current plans” to drop the VAT.

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