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Old 04-13-2010, 09:13 AM   #1
raulf
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VAT paid on eBooks in the EU, what do you pay?

I read today in the spanish language newspaper El País, that the VAT one must pay for e-books in Spain will (finally) be the highest one (16%, 18% from June 1st on). For those not fluent in Spanish, i'll summarize the story:

1) VAT for e-books has been 16%.
2) Publishers and budding e-retailers complain: hey Mr. government, if VAT for p-books is 4%, wtf is it 16% for e-books? makes no sense to me.
3) Culture minister says in December that VAT for e-books will be 4%. hooray. fireworks. dancing in the streets.
4) Publishers get final response from tax (not culture) powers that be saying that books sold on on CD or USB sticks or other physical/digital format will pay 4% (you know, like Encarta, ups, no, wait, that is no longer published anymore) BUT that e-books sold over the Internet pay top 16% VAT. Always count on the taxman for bad news.

Why? because this type of transactions are considered e-commerce, and according to some EU directive (article 98.2 of something from 2006) on electronic services, you can't charge the lowest VAT for such things. you know, electronic, baaad.

(mumble, mumble) but if i buy that same ePub file in, say, a SD card, i pay 4%? crazy.

So i'd like to check, if that's so in the rest of the EU. i've never bought an e-book from an EU-based e-retailer, only from amazon.com, so i don't know what VAT they charge. Anyone who has bought e-books in Europe can confirm or deny that European ban on low taxes on e-books?

By the way. When i buy a paper book from amazon.co.uk i am charged 4% VAT. i guess that, buying a "real" book over the Internet is not e-commerce only when you buy bits from a server into your computer/device (and they Holy Spirit is involved?). The latter is a (fully?) electronic service and should be taxed higher (because?) than something that does the same thing in a slightly different way (involves more human beings doing things with their hands like loading cardboard packages into a van?) are they better than the people that design, build, maintain and repair servers? design software? type copy for e-stores? is there any sensible reason for all this? is there any God? will you marry me? what's for dinner?


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Old 04-13-2010, 09:26 AM   #2
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i guess that, buying a "real" book over the Internet is not e-commerce only when you buy bits from a server into your computer/device (and they Holy Spirit is involved?).
Yes, that's right, and that's the reason for you be able to buy a paperbook at Amazon.com but not the electronic version, that's geographically restricted
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Old 04-13-2010, 11:12 AM   #3
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Same in the UK. Books are zero rated for VAT, but ebooks are standard rate -17.5%.
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Old 04-13-2010, 11:14 AM   #4
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The EU's eCommerce VAT directive requires that all "downloaded data" be charged at the standard (ie highest) rate of VAT in each country. It was originally intended to apply to music downloads - eBooks just got caught up in it.
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Old 04-13-2010, 11:54 AM   #5
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If I were a retailer I would offer:

1) Buy a CD with your books in it. You get low VAT and no geographic restrictions.

2) Shipping is optional, I can keep the CD for you.

3) There would be a free service where you can download the contents of the CDs you own. This would be subject to VAT, but x% of free is still free
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Old 04-13-2010, 12:01 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Jellby View Post
If I were a retailer I would offer:

1) Buy a CD with your books in it. You get low VAT and no geographic restrictions.

2) Shipping is optional, I can keep the CD for you.

3) There would be a free service where you can download the contents of the CDs you own. This would be subject to VAT, but x% of free is still free
What an interesting wheeze. I suspect that HMRC would take a dim view of it.
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Old 04-13-2010, 01:03 PM   #7
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What an interesting wheeze. I suspect that HMRC would take a dim view of it.
I somehow don't think they would want the media asking why they were taxing books so close to an election.
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Old 04-14-2010, 02:33 PM   #8
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There's no special low tax rate on books in Denmark, so it would be the same rate as on everything else.
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Old 04-14-2010, 03:46 PM   #9
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3) There would be a free service where you can download the contents of the CDs you own. This would be subject to VAT, but x% of free is still free
Sorry, but that won't work. If you sell a product, and one element of what you are selling is free, VAT is payable on the value of the free element. Note: value, not price.

In other words, they're one step ahead of you.
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Old 04-14-2010, 04:21 PM   #10
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Sorry, but that won't work. If you sell a product, and one element of what you are selling is free, VAT is payable on the value of the free element. Note: value, not price.

In other words, they're one step ahead of you.
But they are different products. I sell CDs and offer a separate free service.
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Old 04-14-2010, 04:25 PM   #11
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But they are different products. I sell CDs and offer a separate free service.
But the free separate service is one that is only available to the people who buy the CDs. I can't see how you can avoid the conclusion that the free service is sold as a package with the CD. Mike L is right - this wheeze has come up before, back when books first started to have CDs bound into them. The CD had to have standard rate VAT and the book zero rate, and even though the CD was 'free' with the book, HMRC (or HMC&E as they were then) insisted that VAT would have to be charged on the value of the 'free' CD.

This was, of course, this was before books on CD were allowed to be zero rated.

No - a good idea, but Mike L's right, HMRC are there before you - I'd just forgotten.
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Old 04-14-2010, 04:56 PM   #12
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But the free separate service is one that is only available to the people who buy the CDs.
No, I would offer the service for any CD you send me
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Old 04-14-2010, 05:25 PM   #13
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No, I would offer the service for any CD you send me
Hmm... so you offer a data hosting service, allowing people to send you data on CDs that they can then download only from their login at your web site. And you also sell ebooks on CD, which you offer to host as well.

That might just squeak by... but IANAL.
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Old 04-15-2010, 06:24 AM   #14
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We in Lithuania have 21% VAT on paper and e-books. Try to bit that!
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Old 04-15-2010, 06:27 AM   #15
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