Read all about it: Govt. to cut VAT on e-books

The lower VAT on ebooks will have a positive influence on the development of the book market. Kalbar/TFN

Poland plans to slash VAT on e-books, adapting its regulations to today’s increasingly digitised reality and supporting reading.

E-books tend to divide readers. Some remain committed to physical books, with their tactility and smell, from the crispness of a new book to the faint mustiness of older volumes. Others favour the convenience of taking their entire library with them on holiday in digital form. Many use both.

This follows an EU decision this week allowing member states to reduce VAT on ebooks and online news, from the current minimum of 15%, which treats them as electronic services. For physical books, the rates are significantly lower; in some cases, as low as 0%.

On 2 October, EU countries’ finance ministers agreed to the measure, which was proposed by the European Commission two years ago.

“The amended EU VAT rules would contribute to the EU's pursuit of its digital single market strategy and, more broadly, help it to keep pace with technological progress in the digital economy,” wrote the European Council on its website.

In Poland, where VAT on physical and e-books is currently 5% and 23%, respectively, the government has greeted the EU decision with enthusiasm.

“This will have a positive influence on the development of the book market,” said Minister of Finance Teresa Czerwińska, pointing out that lower VAT will increase the stock of legal e-books and counter the development of Internet piracy.

Her ministry will seek to lower VAT on electronic publications as soon as possible, she added. If everything goes smoothly, the new rate could even apply from the New Year onwards.

Poland has long supported the lower rate, with now-Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki suggesting that it could encourage people to read.

“We want to support reading, whether in electronic or paper form,” he said in June 2017, after the EU failed to reach an agreement on VAT on e-books. 

According to the National Library’s latest report on reading in Poland, published this summer, 6% of respondents read e-books in 2017.

This percentage was higher among younger respondents. 11% of people in the 15-24 age group and 18% in the 25-39 one said they read a book downloaded from the Internet last year.