Directive (EU) 2018/1713 amending Directive 2006/112/EC as regards rates of value added tax applied to books, newspapers and periodicals

Author (Corporate)
Series Title
Series Details L 286
Publication Date 14/11/2018
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Directive which amends Directive 2006/112/EC to allow the application by Member States of reduced, super-reduced or zero VAT rates to electronic publications, thereby allowing alignment of VAT rules for electronic and physical publications.

Further information:

Directive 2006/112/EC on the common system of value added tax (the VAT Directive) initially stated that electronically supplied services (including e-publications) had to be taxed at the standard VAT rate (minimum 15%). On the other hand, Member States had the option to apply a reduced VAT rate (minimum 5%) or even lower than the minimum (super-reduced rates) including exemptions with the deductibility of the VAT paid at the preceding stage (so called zero rates), to certain printed publications.

The European Commission highlighted in its Action Plan on VAT that existing rules on VAT rated did not fully take into account technological and economic developments with regard to e-books and electronic newspapers. Modernising VAT for the digital economy had also become a key objective of the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy.

In May 2016, the Council of the European Union invited the Commission to put forward a legislative proposal which integrated provisions concerning VAT rates for e-publications in the context of Digital Single Market initiatives by the end of 2016 and to include an impact assessment. The Commission adopted a draft law on 1 December, granting all Member States the possibility to apply the same VAT rates to electronically supplied publications as they currently apply to printed publications. The proposal required unanimity for adoption by the Council, after consultation of the European Parliament. A general approach was agreed on 2 October 2018, leading to the formal adoption on 6 November.

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Commentary and Analysis
EPRS: At a Glance, May 2017: The same VAT rate for print and e-publications
EPRS: Briefing, December 2018: Reduced VAT rate for e-publications
PWC: Blog, 17.03.17: VAT and electronic publications: the next chapter

EUObserver, 19.06.17: Row between EU ministers halts e-book tax rate
The Guardian, 05.12.18: 'Axe the reading tax': book industry demands end to VAT on ebooks
EUObserver, 01.12.16: EU's new VAT rules likely to make ebooks cheaper
EurActiv, 01.12.16: Under pressure from national governments, Commission to lower VAT rates for e-books

EUR-Lex: COM(2016)758: Proposal to amend Directive 2006/112/EC as regards rates of value added tax applied to books, newspapers and periodicals
EUR-Lex: SWD(2016)392: Impact assessment accompanying COM(2016)758
EUR-Lex: SWD(2016)393: Executive summary of the impact assessment accompanying COM(2016)758
EP: Legislative Train: Proposal amending Directive 2006/112/EC, as regards rates of value added tax applied to books, newspapers and periodicals - e-publications VAT rate
European Parliament: Legislative Observatory: Value added tax (VAT): rates applied to books, newspapers and periodicals
Council of the European Union: Reduced VAT rates for electronic books, newspapers and periodicals

ESO Records
Commission proposes new tax rules to support e-commerce and online businesses in the EU

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