Whether your printing order is subject to UK value-added tax (VAT) depends on a number of factors, including the specific products you are ordering and their intended use. In general, most printing services are subject to VAT in the UK. However, there are some exceptions and special rules that may apply in certain situations.
Below are extracts from HMRC's VAT Notice 701/10 which detail the rules which apply to our most popular products:
3.1 Books and booklets
These normally consist of text or illustrations, bound in a cover stiffer than their pages. They may be printed in any language or characters, photocopied, typed or hand-written, so long as they are found in book or booklet form.
Supplies of any of the following are zero-rated:
- literary works
- reference books
- directories and catalogues
- antique books
- collections of letters or documents permanently bound in covers
- loose-leaf books, manuals or instructions, whether complete with their binder or not
- amendments to zero-rated loose-leaf books, even if issued separately
School work books and other educational texts in question and answer format, are zero-rated because the spaces provided for the insertion of answers are incidental to the essential character of the book or booklet. The same applies to exam papers in question and answer format provided they qualify as books, booklets, brochures, pamphlets or leaflets.
But supplies of the following are standard-rated:
- books of plans or drawings for industrial, architectural, engineering, commercial or similar purposes
- products that are essentially stationery items, for example, diaries and address books
3.2 Brochures and pamphlets
These are not defined in law and whether a particular product qualifies as a brochure or pamphlet is a matter of fact and impression.
Brochures usually consist of several sheets of reading matter fastened or folded together, which are not necessarily bound in covers. They usually contain advertising material in the form of text or illustrations.
Pamphlets are similar, but are usually comprised of material of a political, social or intellectual nature.
Single sheet brochures and ‘Wallet’ type brochures designed with a flap may be zero-rated provided they:
- convey information
- contain a substantial amount of text, with some indication of contents or of the issuing organisation
- are not primarily designed to hold other items
- are supplied complete
These are also not defined in law and again whether a particular product qualifies as a leaflet is a matter of fact and impression. Leaflets normally:
- consist of a single sheet of paper not greater than international standard A4 in size (larger publications up to A2 size can be zero-rated provided that they are printed on both sides, folded down to A4 size or smaller and meet the other conditions)
- are intended to be held in the hand for reading by individuals (rather than for hanging up for general display)
- convey information
- are complete (and not a part work)
- are supplied in sufficient quantity (at least 50 copies) to permit general distribution
- are printed on limp paper
- will either be of an ephemeral nature (designed to be read a few times and then thrown away) or be designed to accompany some other product or service, for example an instruction leaflet
Items printed on stiff paper and card are not automatically excluded from the definition of leaflets. However we do regard the use of stiff paper and card as an indicator that the items have a function which would exclude them.
For example if the item’s main function were designed to be kept or used for a specific purpose in its own right, rather than as ancillary to another supply, it would not be a leaflet. Examples of items that would not be leaflets would be those designed to be used for any of the following:
- as a calendar
- to obtain admission to premises
- to obtain a discount on goods or services
- as reference material
- for completion or return (see below)
We consider that items printed on laminated paper are designed to be kept and therefore not leaflets. On the other hand, orders of service are not normally designed to be kept and may be zero-rated.
3.4 Items with areas for completion
Items which might otherwise be considered to be leaflets, brochures and pamphlets may not be zero-rated if they are primarily intended for completion or detachment. This distinguishes brochures, pamphlets and leaflets from standard-rated forms.
We accept that items are not primarily intended for completion or detachment if 25% or less of their total area consists of:
- areas which are blank and available for completion
- parts to be detached and returned
Where there is both an area for completion and a part to be detached and returned, then the two together must not exceed 25% of the total area of the publication.
Whatever the area for completion, a publication which is designed to be returned whole after completion is always standard-rated.
GENERALLY STANDARD RATED
Sheets intended for public display are standard-rated.
Stationery items such as letterheads, business cards, account books and exercise books are standard-rated.
4.6 Supplies to charities
Certain printed items may be zero-rated when supplied to charities for use in connection with collecting monetary donations. For details see Notice 701/58 Charity advertising and goods connected with collecting donations.
5.2 Binders and folders
Most folders and wallets are standard-rated but if they convey information themselves they may qualify as brochures (see paragraph 3.2).