Plans to scrap tax on e-publications brought forward amid lockdown

Plans to scrap VAT on e-books and digital publications have been brought forward to Friday, knocking 20% off the retail price and offering a boost to embattled publishers.

The Treasury said it was fast-tracking the decision to axe VAT on all e-publications that was first announced in the March Budget by seven months.

It will help slash the cost of e-books, e-newspapers and digital academic journals to help make reading more accessible amid the lockdown, while also supporting the hard-hit newspaper industry.

The Treasury also announced that newspapers would be given £35 million in extra government advertising over the next three months as part of its coronavirus communications campaign.

This would be split between local, regional and national print media.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “We want to make it as easy as possible for people across the UK to get hold of the books they want whilst they are staying at home and saving lives.

“That is why we have fast-tracked plans to scrap VAT on all e-publications, which will make it cheaper for publishers to sell their books, magazines and newspapers.”

The Treasury said publishers were reporting that demand for e-books had risen by a third on average, with some publishers reporting as much as a 50% increase.

TI Media – formerly Time Inc UK and owner of titles such as Country Life and Marie Claire UK – had seen digital subscriptions jump 200% in the last seven days alone, according to the Treasury.

It will also come as welcome news to parents, with recent research by the National Literacy Trust showing that over 45% of children prefer to read on an electronic device.