News UK VAT Ruling Could Set New Precedent for Digital Editions

By Jess Browne-Swinburne

14 Jan 2020

Publishers of digital editions of magazines and periodicals could see their titles zero-rated for VAT after News UK successfully won a tribunal against HMRC, their digital editions of the Times, Sunday Times and Sun should be classed as newspapers under the VAT Act 1994, and therefore zero-rated.

The news publisher challenged HMRC in an earlier case, concluded in March 2018, which found although the digital editions are the equivalent to newspaper editions, they are not newspapers under the VAT Act. News UK appealed the decision, to the Upper Tribunal, which published its conclusion on December 24 2019, overturning that ruling to find in favour of the taxpayer.

Owen Meredith, PPA MD commented: “This is welcome news for PPA members as it marks progress in updating UK tax law for the digital age and ensuring the zero-rate is applied in a platform neutral way across print and digital publications. We have long argued that it is an anomaly that digital editions have not been zero-rated and reflects a failure of tax law to keep up with progress in the digital economy.

“Of course, this case rests on specific technicalities and we continue to campaign for fair tax treatment with the zero-rate to applied across digital publications, something which has been supported by various reviews, including the government commissioned Cairncross Review on sustainable journalism.”

PPA have long campaigned for a full zero-rating on digital publications, most recently through the Axe the Reading Tax Campaign.