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VAT on Print Work

OK, let’s get one thing straight first though, we’re not accountants. Good grief what a miserably existence that must be. Unless you are one of course and then we say, welcome venerable number cruncher, what would we do without you? Some of the most interesting people I know are accountants...

What all that previous paragraph means is this is a guide to help you understand a few of the things that could catch you out when printing, not a complete guide to the world of VAT. For full up-to-date details, talk to your printer or visit the HRMCs useful site that offers more help.

So, what print is zero VAT and what’s not.

It’s not always completely obvious. If you produce a leaflet for example, normally that would be zero rated. However, if you put something like “Get FREE entry with this coupon” on there, it will now attract VAT.

The same applies if the piece becomes a voucher of some sort. If you’re advertising a discount, that’s zero rated, if you only offer the discount on redemption of the leaflet, it’s now a voucher so thoeretically attracts VAT.

Not only that, if you leave a space on a brochure to write on it, it becomes VAT-able. If you include something such as a CD in a brochure or book, the brochure/book is zero rated, the CD element may be vat-able.

Most items you’ll print will attract VAT, items such as: stationary, folders, poster, invites, tickets, badges, bags, forms, price tags, binders, book covers, stickers, coupons and postcards.

Zero rated items include: brochures, catalogue, leaflets, directories, programmes, manuals, booklets, journals, music scores, crosswords, books, and tourist guides—to name a few.

Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be an overall rule you can use to see what’s VAT-able and what’s not. There are rules that help, such as how ephemeral the piece is. For example, a leaflet is designed to be read once or twice and disposed of, so zero VAT. But this rule doesn’t apply to books or instruction manuals, they’re not ephemeral yet are also zero VAT rated. Even the weigh of the paper stock can have an influence on a brochure or leaflet being VAT-able or not.

Because of all this complexity, some printers will just charge VAT on all jobs to make their life simple, so watch out for that one. The reality is you’ll need to talk to and then trust the printer you choose, or spend a little time checking out the details for yourself.

Granted, it’s not the most interesting of subjects, that’s true, but it could save your business a fair amount especially if you’re not VAT registered yet.

Finally, if you use your design agency to organise and manage your print requirements, check this out with them also.

By Jeff Patreane

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