The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) today issued a judgment concerning the standard rate of value added tax (VAT) applied to digital books, newspapers, and periodicals. The CJEU concluded that excluding these digital reading materials from application of a reduced VAT rate was not contrary to the principle of equal treatment.
The case is: Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich, C-390/15 (7 March 2017)
Under the VAT Directive, the EU Member States may apply a reduced rate of VAT to printed publications (including books, newspapers, and periodicals). Digital publications, however, must be subject to the standard rate of VAT, with the exception of digital books supplied on a physical support (for example a CD-ROM).
The Polish Constitutional Court asked the CJEU whether that difference is compatible with the principle of equal treatment and, second, whether the European Parliament was sufficiently involved in the legislative procedure.
As explained in a related release [PDF 112 KB], the CJEU stated the VAT Directive has the effect of precluding the application of a reduced rate of VAT to the supply of digital books electronically (although application of a reduced rate is permitted for the supply of digital books on all physical means of support). The CJEU found the provisions of the VAT Directive must be regarded as establishing a difference in treatment between two situations that are comparable in the light of the objective (the promotion of reading) pursued by the EU legislature when it permitted the application of a reduced rate of VAT to certain types of books. The CJEU concluded that this difference in treatment was justified.
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