E-book readers attract unwanted VAT
Books are essential, but e-books are a luxury, apparently
Many of those finding e-book readers under their Christmas tree have been surprised to discover that electronic titles attract value added tax, despite the dead-tree versions being VAT-free.
As the UK VAT rate returns to its pre-recession level of 17.5 per cent, owners of e-book readers are finding out that they have to pay it on electronic versions of books, for another 12 months at least and thereafter at the discretion of Her Majesty's government.
In the UK, most purchases attract 17.5 per cent tax at the time of purchase, but some things are exempt. Items deemed essential are sold free of VAT, and these include food, books and children's clothes. But electronic books aren't 'books' in the eyes of the law and so do attract the tax, until 2011 at least.
The problem with changing the regulations has always been the requirement for a unanimous vote at EU level, something rather more difficult than calculating the square root of -1. But last year it did happen, and member countries will be allowed to charge a reduced VAT rate on "any similar physical medium that predominantly reproduce the same textual information content as printed books", come January 2011.
Not only that, but the EU has made it clear that should any country choose to apply the reduced rate early it won't take action against them: a stance that has already seen Spain applying a lower rate - four per cent, the same as paper versions - to e-books.
There's even a petition you can sign, calling for prompt action to equalise VAT rates regardless of the delivery mechanism.
So what of our own treasury? Will British customers buying eBooks get to pay the lower rate next year? Apparently that hasn't been decided yet, and won't be until the next budget, until which time we'll just have to get used to paying tax for the luxury of electronic delivery. ®
Here's my reason...
Tech manuals for hardware engineers? DBAs and system Admins ( Win and Unix ) visiting remote sites? Both will instantly have all their manuals and books to hand to look stuff up rather than visit, say they can't do the job and have to charge you for another site visit?
The only reason I want one is for tech manuals when I am out and about on jobs.
So there you go.
I was about to say something similar
But don't forget that processing wood pulp to paper is actually quite a chemically intense process. There is a huge amount of bleaching that goes on and quite a lot of energy is used.
Indeed similar to any crop such as wheat the paper locks up the CO2 until it ultimately degrades. With wheat that will happen fairly quickly as we eat our cereal but for a book there is a good chance that it will sit on a shelf for years or decades locking up the CO2 in the process.
I'd suggest you do not ignore the pollution involved in manufacture of the reader. Then the fact that it takes some energy just to keep the thing lit up to be able to read the 'book' that would otherwise cost nothing to read in paper version means it keeps on polluting (arguably not by very much).
I'd be curious to know if there has been a proper life cycle analysis comparing a paper book to a digital book.
Sigh,...headline readers again...
..It the e-BOOKS, not ebook-READER people are complaining about.
And it to be honest if you can afford a couple of hundred quid for a toy, then I'm sure you can afford a few extra pence per book.
Imagine That !
"...rather more difficult than calculating the square root of -1."
Easy, it's 'j' (or 'i' if you're a physicist or a mathematician). No calculation needed.
Another can of worms ripe for opening
Who else can see the wrinkle? Buy this nice shiny e-book - its VAT free!
(oh, and by the way, it comes on a reusable 32GB SD card or whatever other storage device would benefit from being punted VAT free).
I was about to say, cue future budget and watch Gordo back pedal with cries of "Oh you naughty people, I never intended you to take advantage of my legislation like that!", but with a bit of luck Gordo and mates will be history by then.