This guide offers info about paying VAT when shopping with Solopress and suggests further learning you can seek out to ensure you’re doing the right thing when it comes to your VAT responsibilities.
While we’re able to offer advice about ordering with Solopress, we don’t determine when it is or isn’t necessary to pay VAT. For definitive guidance on the subject, HMRC is the government department responsible for collecting VAT. You can visit the gov.uk page entitled ‘VAT: general enquiries’ for details on how to contact HMRC for advice.
Do I have to pay VAT on print?
VAT is payable on some printed products, but not on others. Full guidance on whether you should pay VAT on your print can be found on the government’s website. The HMRC guidance can be difficult to reference quickly, but some helpful sites such as isitvatable.com offer more accessible lists detailing which print products are subject to VAT.
Our own rule-of-thumb list of VATable and not VATable Solopress products appears below. Laws and guidance are subject to change, however, and Solopress always recommends enquiring with HMRC if you are in any doubt about paying VAT.
VATable and not VATable at a glance
Here are some examples of print products that do and don’t qualify for VAT:
|VATable (standard rated)||Not VATable (zero-rated)|
|Activity Books for Adults|
Music Manuscript Books (blank)
Tokens & Coupons
|Activity Books for Children|
Flyers & Leaflets (when conditions are met, see below)
Sewing or Knitting Patterns
Order of Service
Programmes for Theatre Shows or Sports Events
What conditions must a Flyer or Leaflet meet to avoid VAT?
In order it to be zero-rated for VAT, the Flyer or Leaflet should meet these conditions:
- It must be intended to convey written information. As such, it should contain significant text as part of the design. The item should not be intended for display purposes.
- It must not act as a ticket, invitation or discount voucher.
- It must be A4 or smaller in its collapsed or folded form.
- If featuring a writable area, that area should not exceed 25% of the printed area.
Why do I have to choose whether or not to pay VAT at checkout?
When you buy print products from Solopress, we ask you at the checkout whether you need to pay VAT on the items you’re purchasing.
The reason we ask the customer is because it’s the usage of the end product that determines whether or not the product is VATable.
When you order a product like Flyers, Leaflets or Brochures, it’s the content that’s printed on them and the way they are used that will determine whether or not you need to pay VAT.
For example, if you ordered an A4 Flyer from the Flyers & Leaflets product page and used the end product as a handbill, that’s a “zero-rated” item so you DON'T have to pay VAT.
However, if you ordered an A4 Flyer and used the end product as a poster, that’s a “standard-rated” item so you DO have to pay VAT.
What factors dictate whether or not items are subject to VAT?
In broad strokes, items printed with the intention of conveying written information tend to be zero-rated. That includes Books, Booklets, Leaflets, Brochures and Catalogues.
Items printed to be displayed, such as Posters, Calendars and even Certificates are standard-rated.
VAT is also payable on items used as an aid to business such as Presentation Folders or Business Cards.
The same goes for items that are used as stationery or that can be written on. That includes Letterheads, Compliment Slips, Postcards, Greetings Cards and Invitations.
For example a book such as a novel or a guidebook would be zero-rated, so no VAT would be payable. A book with blank pages for the user to complete, such as a Diary, Notebook or Notepad would be standard-rated and subject to VAT.
VAT is collected by HM Revenue & Customs in the UK, and their guidance is the ultimate authority on which printed items are VATable and which aren’t. If you’re at all unsure, or if your item seems to fall between what is VATable and what isn’t, we’d encourage you to seek your own guidance from HMRC.
How does the HMRC determine what print is VATable and what isn’t?
Printed products that are classified in what HMRC terms “Group Three” are zero-rated for VAT. An overview of the characteristics and functions that determine whether or not a piece of print is a Group 3 item is available on the government’s website.
HMRC classifies the following as Group Three zero-rated print items:
- Books, booklets, brochures, pamphlets and leaflets.
- Newspapers, journals and periodicals.
- Children’s picture books and painting books.
- Music (printed, duplicated or manuscript).
- Maps, charts and topographical plans.
- Covers, cases and other articles supplied with items 1 to 5 and not separately accounted for.
- The publications listed in Items 1 to 3 when supplied electronically, but excluding publications which: (a) are wholly or predominantly devoted to advertising, or (b) consist wholly or predominantly of audio or video content
As long as those items don’t contain plans or drawings for industrial, architectural, engineering, commercial or similar purposes
However, there are items resembling books that are NOT zero-rated under these exemptions. Book-type print products that would be standard-rated include anything that might be used as stationery, or cut out and assembled into a toy or diorama. Or a puzzle book that might have an adult theme that would make it inappropriate for children.
Anyone looking to print a book that includes any non-standard features such as significant areas for text entry, adult themes or any physical transformation leading to the item no longer resembling a book would be well advised to familiarise themselves with the information and precedents outlined by the HMRC guidance online.
Do charities pay VAT on print?
Charities are generally VAT registered and pay VAT at a reduced rate on certain goods and services, but they‘re also exempt from paying VAT on a good many products.
When it comes to print, the exemption that excuses Charities from paying VAT on “advertising” covers many printed and branded products. According to VAT Notice 701/1 paragraph 6:
The supply of advertising to a charity is zero-rated. The zero rating covers advertisements on any subject, including staff recruitment
The paragraph goes on to mention printed collection boxes, envelopes, appeal letters, stickers, emblems and badges as examples of items that are zero-rated for charities.