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The UK government's rules for VAT on printed matter are complicated - particularly in relation to VAT on leaflets and flyers - but bear with me, I'm going to try to make this as simple as possible...

Whether you pay VAT on a printed item depends on many factors including its format, size, content and intended use. Most printing is classed by HM Customs and Revenue (HMCR) as standard rated (in other words, you must pay VAT at 15%). This includes stationery items (letterheads, compliment slips, business cards etc), postcards, folders, invitations, posters and greetings cards. However, there are exceptions:

Most books, booklets, brochures, pamphlets and leaflets are VAT zero rated (you do not pay VAT). However:

If your printed document includes an area intended to be written on (such as a form or a section to be completed and returned) it MAY be classed as VAT standard rated;

If your document can be used to gain entry to an event or premises (e.g. "free entry with this leaflet") then it WILL be classed as VAT standard rated as it will be regarded as a ticket;

If your document can be used to gain a discount on goods or services (e.g. "10% off with this leaflet") then once again you WILL have to pay VAT as it will be regarded as a voucher

HM Customs and Revenue state that to qualify for VAT zero rating, a leaflet must be of a 'ephemeral nature' (!). What that means in plain English is that the leaflet must be designed to be read a few times and then thrown away. Therefore 'leaflets' which are intended to be displayed in shop windows would be classed as posters and would be subject to VAT at 15%;

If a leaflet is designed to accompany some other product or service, for example an instruction leaflet, it is classed as VAT zero rated. However, if the leaflet's main function means that it should be kept or used for a specific purpose in its own right it would NOT be classed as a leaflet. An example would be a calendar

Finally, if the leaflet is laminated or encapsulated, HM Customs and Revenue consider this to mean that it is intended to be kept by the recipient and is therefore VAT standard rated. They also consider the use of thick paper or card as another indicator that a leaflet may be designed to be retained and could therefore class it as VAT standard rated, depending upon the content of the leaflet

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Request Print Ltd | 28 Raleigh Crescent, Worthing, West Sussex, BN12 6EE. Tel: (01903) 529725 | Fax: (01903) 753914
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