VAT Notice 701/10
The following is Sections 3 and 4 from
the HM Revenue and Customs VAT Notice 701/10, Zero-Rating of Books etc. dated
October 2010. The 'Group 3 items' are explained in the Notice as follows:
"The words in Group 3 are used in their ordinary,
everyday sense. This means they are restricted to goods produced on paper
and similar materials such as card (but see paragraph
3.7). Most items
qualifying for the zero-rating will be products of the printing industry
items printed in Braille), but goods which are photocopied, typed or
hand-written will, in some cases, also qualify.
"Goods containing text in other formats such as audio or video cassettes
or CD Rom are standard-rated. This includes the storage and distribution
of text by fax, e-mail, microfiche, or any similar process. Transcripts
or print-outs made of such information are zero-rated if they are supplied
the form of books, booklets, brochures, pamphlets or leaflets as defined
in section 3.
"The supply of text by electronic transmission, via the internet, or similar
means is also standard-rated. Such supplies are of services, not of goods,
and different VAT rules will apply to them (such as those on the place
of supply of services – see Notice
741 Place of Supply of Services."
It is not an exhaustive guide and you
should read the complete
VAT Notice 701/10 from the HMRC website if you
are unsure about any of the details.
3. Meaning of the Group 3 items
The meaning of the individual items is explained
in detail below. Whether a particular item falls within those meanings depends
mainly on its physical
characteristics and function but also, to a lesser extent, on its content.
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 (including
Braille or shorthand), 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, and 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
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
- picture card and stamp albums, unless they contain a substantial amount
of reading matter which is complete in itself, and no more than 25%
of the album
is set aside for the mounting of cards and stamps
- completed stamp albums, and
- 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, and
- contain a substantial amount of text, with some indication of contents
or of the issuing organisation, and
- are not primarily designed to hold other items, and
- 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
- 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
- are printed on limp paper, and
- will either be of an ephemeral nature (designed to be read a few
times and then thrown away) or be designed to accompany some
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 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, or
- for completion or return (see paragraph
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
This distinguishes brochures, pamphlets and leaflets from standard-rated
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, or
- 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.
Newspapers are issued at least once a week in a continuous series under
the same title. Each issue is usually dated and/or serially numbered.
consist of several large sheets folded rather than bound together, and
contain information about current events of local, national or international
Publications which do not contain a substantial amount of news are not newspapers.
Many newspapers also carry items such as readers’ letters, sports
news, the weather forecast, crosswords and features (including feature supplements)
on fashion, gardening, etc., or more specialised topics.
3.6 Journals and periodicals
These are magazines issued in a series at regular intervals, more frequently
than once a year, either in newspaper format or as paper-bound publications.
They may contain information of a specialised nature (for example legal,
medical, financial, commercial, fashion or sporting) or be of more general
interest. They are normally a mixture of articles and stories with the
content changed for each edition. Although they consist essentially of
they may also consist mainly of illustrations or advertising matter.
‘Poster-magazines’, which have some textual material on one
side and a related picture capable of being used as a poster on the other
side and which are folded into a magazine format are zero-rated as periodicals,
provided they are issued at regular intervals.
Publications whose main purpose is to promote your own products or services
are not journals or periodicals, even if they are published regularly. If
you supply such publications, you can still zero-rate them if they fall within
one of the zero-rated categories, such as brochures.
3.7 Children’s picture books
These are zero-rated, whether they are printed on paper, plastic or textiles,
such as children’s rag books, unless the article is essentially a
toy. Examples of articles which are standard-rated as toys include:
- books consisting wholly or mainly of pictures of models for cutting out
– but books with printed text directly related to the material for cutting
out covering at least 25% of the pages can be zero-rated. (Pages of assembly
instructions should not be included as printed text for the purpose of
determining eligibility for zero-rating), and
- items where the 'pages' are boards for games.
3.8 Children’s painting books
Supplies of the following are zero-rated:
- children’s painting and drawing books with sample pictures for
copying, or outlines of pictures for colouring, painting or drawing
- similar books with ‘invisible’ outlines to colour which
can be made visible by rubbing with a pencil or applying water with a paint
- painting books in which the small amounts of water colour required for
colouring are contained in the book (for example, in the form of
a palette), and
- activity books which combine pages of colouring with pages of puzzles,
quizzes and the like.
Printed, duplicated or manuscript music of all kinds is zero-rated.
It may be:
- instrumental or vocal
- printed or hand-written
- bound or on loose sheets
- illustrated or not, or
- in any system of notation, including numerical symbols or Braille.
Music rolls and blank music manuscript are standard-rated.
A piece of music commissioned from a composer is standard-rated (see paragraph
3.10 Maps, charts and topographical plans
Supplies of all printed maps and charts designed to represent the natural
or artificial features of countries, towns, seas, the heavens, etc are
zero-rated. They can be printed on paper or other material (such as cloth)
and in the
form of single or folded sheets or a collection of such sheets bound
together in book form (for example, an atlas).
But supplies of any of these are standard-rated:
- plans or drawings for industrial, architectural, engineering, commercial
or similar purposes, in any format
- framed maps whose primary purpose is decorative
- pictorial wall charts
- aerial photographs
- globes, three dimensional models and similar articles, or
- decorative maps printed or woven into textile articles such as scarves,
handkerchiefs, tea-towels, tapestries, rugs.
4. Items not included within any of the Group 3 items
Sheets intended for public display are standard-rated. For ‘Poster-magazines’,
Stationery items such as account books and exercise books are standard-rated.
Some items which are standard-rated stationery when new and unused
can be zero-rated if sold after they have been completed, provided that
have the physical characteristics of a book or other zero-rated item.
Examples are completed diaries or ships’ logs, but not completed stamp albums.
Individual manuscript or typed letters are standard-rated, as are collections
of such letters if they are unbound or loosely bound. Permanently bound
collections of letters are zero-rated.
If a ‘stock’ or basic letter is supplied with an individual
name or address of the recipient added (by whatever means) that supply is
standard-rated. Uncompleted ‘stock’ or basic letters may qualify
as leaflets (paragraph
3.3), if the portion for completion consists of no
more than the recipient’s name and address, a reference number and
4.4 Incomplete publications
Parts of books, unbound pages and separate illustrations are standard-rated.
By concession, the following are zero-rated:
- part work publications designed to build up into a zero-rated book. Once
a complete book has been supplied, amendments to it may also be zero-rated.
- Card based continuity series publications, even though not bound, but
stored in their container will for, VAT purposes, be treated as a book.
48 Extra-Statutory Concessions.
Photocopies of zero-rated items are always standard-rated unless the copies
can be properly described as books, booklets, brochures, pamphlets, leaflets
etc, and meet all the criteria for such items in the relevant preceding
paragraphs. A bundle of photocopies would not constitute a book unless
it included copies
of all the pages of a book and was in a permanent binding. Photocopies
of parts of books, extracts from periodicals etc cannot be zero-rated
they are complete in themselves and have the characteristics of zero-rated
If you provide ‘instant’ photocopying or duplicating services
and you cannot determine the VAT liability of the copies which you supply,
you should charge and account for VAT at the standard rate.
4.6 Supplies to charities
Certain printed items that are not within the group 3 zero-rating
and are therefore usually standard-rated, may be zero-rated when supplied
charities for use in connection with collecting monetary donations. For
701/58 Charity Advertising and Goods Connected with Collecting Donations.