VATable or not header

VATable or not?

What is and isn’t VATable?

Taxes in this country are much maligned and the so-called ‘Tax Man’ is utterly vilified.  Obviously, without taxes a country cannot function and the idea of our tax money going straight into some sly, black-cloaked villain’s pocket is ludicrous.  However, that’s not to say that the system is made easy for us or the logic clear.  Hopefully this post will help elucidate matters somewhat.

 

What’s the logic behind it?

Even this is difficult to pin down or to apply with certainty, but there are reasons why some things are liable to VAT.  HMRC would no doubt describe these reasons as ‘transparent’, hoping that sharper minds would not notice that the word transparent can also mean invisible.

However, you can make some presumptions without looking anything up, e.g. that if the item being printed is intended for resale to the public, then it will be ‘standard rated’ (i.e. subject to the full VAT).  Two other baseline factors are as follows and usually apply to flyers or leaflets:

If the document can be used to gain admission to a premises then it automatically becomes a ticket and is standard rated.
If the document can be used to obtain a discount for goods or services, it becomes a voucher and is standard rated.
If the document contains a region (more than 25%) which is intended for writing on, such as a form, it is standard rated.

Checklist:

  • Documents intended for resale to the public are standard rated
  • Documents with the purpose of admission to premises are standard rated
  • Documents with the purpose of obtaining a discount are standard rated
  • Documents intended for writing on (area over 25%) are standard rated

 

What if I’m not sure?

It’s not always clear whether these rules apply to a print job, but there is an easy way to check.  The arbiter of these things is HMRC themselves, and they have their own reference at www.hmrc.gov.uk – the easiest way is to search at the top of that page for ‘zero-rating of books’, which will take you to several relevant links.

However, if you just want a quick reference, then there is another site with the very original name of www.isitvatable.com – a simple demarcation of VATable and non VATable with a search field.

 

What if I represent a charity?

Charities may benefit from zero rating on all printed materials intended for distribution or advertising to the public, including for recruitment purposes.  The only rule is that the printed material must be relevant to and contain information about the charity’s main objective, e.g. animal rights.

There are some exceptions to charities’ VAT exemption, though:

Direct mail and telesales
Anything on a charity’s own website
Anything where no supply of time, equipment or space has been made by a third party
(advertisement on the charity’s own greetings card, for example)
Exhibition stands and space
Commemorative items (pens, clothing, etc.)

 

Quick reference

This is a list of common items often queried by print professionals.  It should be noted that no assumption of zero rating should be made on items which don’t appear in this list.  You should also satisfy yourself that the item fulfils the logical criteria for VAT, rather than just rely on this list.  It’s simply a reference, taken from www.isitvatable.com on 14-10-13.

Standard rated:

Acceptance cards
Account Books
Address books
Albums
Amendment slips
Announcement cards
Appointment cards
Autograph albums (uncompleted)
Badges
Bags, paper
Ballot papers
Bankers’ drafts
Bibliographies
Billheads
Bills of lading
Bills of quantity (blank)
Binders
Bingo cards
Biorhythm charts
Blotters
Book covers
Book marks
Book tokens
Bookmakers’ tickets
Business cards
Calendars
Certificates
Cheques and cheque books
Cigarette cards
Cloakroom tickets
Colour cards
Compliment slips
Copy books
Correspondence cards
Coupon books
Coupons
Credit cards
Delivery notes
Diaries (unused)
Dividend warrants
Dressmaking patterns
Engineers’ plans
Envelopes
Exercise books
Fashion drawings
Flash cards
Folders
Football pool coupons
Form letters
Forms
Framed decorative maps
Games
Globes
Graph paper
Greetings cards
Index cards
Inlay cards for cassette, CD or video
Insurance cover notes
Invitation cards
Invoices
Labels
Letter headings
Letters (handwritten)
Log books (blank)
Lottery tickets and cards
Manuscript paper
Manuscripts
Medical records
Membership cards
Memo pads
Memorial cards
Menu cards
Microfiche
Microfilm
Music rolls
Note books, pads and paper
Order books and forms
Paper, unprinted
Parts of books
Pattern cards
Photograph albums
Photographs
Plans Standard-rated
Playing cards
Poll cards
Pools coupons
Postcards (whether completed or not)
Posters
Price cards and tags
Printed pictures
Questionnaires
Receipt books and forms
Record books
Record labels
Record sleeves
Registers
Rent books
Reply-paid coupons and envelopes
Reproductions of paintings
Score cards
Scrap books (blank)
Scrolls (hand-written)
Seals
Shade cards (unless they contain substantial printed text)
Share certificates
Stamp albums (whether completed or not)
Stationery
Stationery books
Stickers
Swatch books
Swatch cards
Sweepstake tickets
Tags
Temperature charts
Tickets
Time cards and sheets
Tokens Standard-rated (but see paragraph 5.4)
Toys
Transcripts
Transfers
Transparencies
Visiting cards
Vouchers
Wall charts
Waste paper
Wills
Winding cards
Wrapping paper
Wreath cards

 

Zero rated:

Accounts (fully printed)
Advertising leaflets
Agendas (fully printed)
Almanacs
Amendments (loose-leaf)
Annuals
Antique books
Antique maps
Articles of association (complete in booklet form)
Astronomical charts
Atlases
Autograph books (completed)
Bills of quantity (completed)
Booklets
Books
Brochures
Bulletins
Catalogues
Charts (geographical or topographical)
Circulars
Colouring books (children’s)
Comics
Company accounts and reports
Crossword books
Diaries (completed)
Dictionaries
Directories (completed)
Election addresses
Encyclopaedias
Football programmes
Geological maps
Handbills
Holiday and tourist guides
Hydrographical charts
Hymn books
Instruction manuals
Journals
Leaflets
Loose leaf books
Magazines
Mail order catalogues
Manuals
Maps
Memoranda of association (completed in booklet form)
Missals
Monographs
Music
Music scores
Newspapers
Orders of Service
Painting books (children’s)
Pamphlets
Periodicals
Picture books
Poster magazines
Prayer books
Price lists (fully printed leaflets or brochures)
Programmes
Rag books (children’s)
Recipe books
Road maps
Scrap books (completed)
Ships’ logs (completed)
Sports programmes
Staff journals
Text books
Theses
Timetables (in book or leaflet form)
Topographical plans
Tracts
Trade catalogues
Trade directories
Travel brochures

 

Still not sure?

Don’t worry, it’s down to us to get this right – it’s just useful for you to see roughly how it works.  The sad fact is that many printers will simply charge VAT on everything (and potentially pocket the difference) rather than go to the effort of checking.  We won’t do that at Firstpointprint.