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Publishing Industry calls on the new Chancellor to Axe the Reading Tax

Updated: Nov 28, 2019

Big names across the publishing industry including Penguin Random House UK, Pearson, HarperCollins, Hachette UK, Taylor & Francis and Cambridge University Press have joined 100 MP campaign supporters in calling for an end to digital VAT, the unfair tax on learning which hurts people with disabilities and young readers.

Read the letter signed by 42 senior publishing leaders below.

The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP

The Chancellor of the Exchequer HM Treasury 1 Horse Guards Road London SW1A 2HQ

Thursday 25th July 2019

Dear Chancellor of the Exchequer,

We are writing to welcome you to your new role and take this opportunity to call on you to end the unfair tax on learning by zero-rating VAT on digital publications in your next Budget.

Since 1973, successive governments have rightly maintained the policy of zero-rating VAT on print books, journals, magazines and newspapers to ensure knowledge and learning are accessible. However, the current government has not applied the same principle to digital publications, even after the EU lifted its restrictions on Member States to allow them to do so last year.

This ongoing inequality has significant ramifications for readers, publishers and the public purse alike. It is an outdated, unintended, unfair tax that disproportionately impacts readers who rely on digital content for accessibility reasons, including people with disabilities and the elderly who may need audiobooks or ereaders that can be used to alter print size.

It also potentially acts as a barrier to children’s literacy, with research from the National Literacy Trust showing that young people from low-income households are more likely to read using digital formats. Publicly funded institutions such as universities, libraries, government departments and the NHS are also needlessly taxed on their access to digital content.

From a business perspective, the tax is a barrier to increased innovation in digital formats. Zero-rating VAT on digital publications would ensure that the UK remains tax-competitive as increasing numbers of countries in the EU 27 reduce VAT on these products. It would also honour the commitments made by the government to ‘make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business’ and to ‘help every British business become a digital business’. It would be sad if the UK fell behind other European nations, rather than leading the way on this issue.

We have cross-party support from Members of Parliament, as well as from members of the public who have signed our petition. We hope that you too will be able to lend your support and end this inequality. Reading must be accessible to everyone, whatever format they favour.

We would be delighted to meet with you, as representatives of the publishing industry, to discuss this issue further if you felt able to accommodate a meeting.

Yours sincerely, Peter Phillips, President of the Publishers Association and CEO, Cambridge University Press* Annie Callanan, Vice President of the Publishers Association and CEO, Taylor & Francis Group* Charlie Redmayne, Past President of the Publishers Association and CEO, HarperCollins* Simon Allen, President, McGraw-Hill, Higher Education and International** Stephen Barr, President, SAGE International* Catherine Bell, Co-MD, Scholastic UK** Rod Bristow, President, UK and Core, Pearson Education Limited* Jamie Byng, CEO, Canongate Books* Ian Chapman, CEO & Publishers, Simon & Schuster UK & International** Rod Cookson, Managing Director, IWA Publishing Ltd** Amy Flinders, Copyright Manager, Listening Books** Anthony Forbes Watson, Managing Director, Pan Macmillan** Oliver Gadsby, Chief Executive, Rowman & Littlefield International** Lynn Gaspard, Managing Director, Saqi Books** Tommi Grover, Managing Director, Channel View Publications Ltd & Multilingual Matters** Sevak Edward Gulbekian, Chief Editor, Rudolf Steiner Press** Rumana Haider, UK & Export Sales Director, Michael O’Mara Books Ltd** Louise Jordan, Publisher, Wacky Bee Books** Anthony Kinahan, Director, Dunedin Academic Press Ltd** Anne Kitson, Managing Director and Senior Vice President, CellPress and The Lancet, Elsevier* Helen Kogan, Managing Director, Kogan Page Ltd** Karen Lotz, Group MD, Walker Books** Tricia Macmillan, Managing Director, MMS Publishing** Alexey Manichenko, CEO, Skylark Learning Limited** Perminder Mann, CEO, Bonnier Books UK** Nigel Newton, Founder and Chief Executive, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc** Dr Robert Parker, Chief Executive, Royal Society of Chemistry** Jonathan Perdoni, COO, Bonnier Books UK** Cally Poplak, Managing Director, Egmont Publishing* Nigel Portwood, Chief Executive, Oxford University Press** Jeremy Poynting, Managing Editor, Peepal Tree Press** Joanna Prior, Managing Director, Penguin General Books, Penguin Random House* Jade Robertson, International Publishing Director, Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd** Andrew Robinson, Director of Higher Education EMEA, Cengage Learning* Daniel Ropers, CEO, Springer Nature** Professor Michael Schmidt OBE FRSL, Editorial and Managing Director, Carcanet Press Ltd** Alison Shaw, Chief Executive, Bristol University Press** David Shelley, CEO, Hachette UK* Miles Stevens-Hoare, General Manager, W.F. Howes Ltd** Lis Tribe, MD, Hodder Education* Judy Verses, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Research, Wiley** Tom Weldon, CEO, Penguin Random House UK**

*Member of the Council of the Publishers Association **Representative of member company of the Publishers Association

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