- Reduced rate of VAT reflects newspapers’ unique role in society and education
- VAT on newspapers “an unfair form of reading tax” says NNI
National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) has urged the Minister for Finance to reduce the rate of VAT on newspapers, a move it says would bring Ireland into line with the UK and many EU countries, whilst also supporting NNI’s Newspapers in Education (NiE) programme.
Printed newspapers in Ireland are subject to 9% VAT, a reduced rate, introduced by Government in 2011. However in the UK and many EU countries, the unique role of newspapers in society and as an educational tool is reflected by a zero rate of VAT.
In support of the National Strategy to Improve Literacy amongst Young People, NNI established an NiE programme last year with the launch of NNI Press Pass. NNI has invested in excess of 200,000 euro to date in the initiative which is aimed at transition year students. Designed to improve students’ reading, writing and critical thinking skills, NNI Press Pass has been hugely successful and its inclusion in the Junior Cycle curriculum from 2014 will benefit thousands of children in the coming years.
This year an extra 10,000 Transition Year students have signed up to participate in bringing the total to 25,000. Research shows that young readers’ programmes, such as NNI Press Pass, positively influence students’ motivation, literacy levels, academic skills and classroom communications. Newspapers help students to understand their local society, open a window on the wider world and provide a basis for active citizenship. The application of a zero rate of VAT on newspapers could greatly enhance NNI’s NiE programme, making newspapers more affordable to families who are under increasing economic pressure. It would also help to encourage young people to maintain the newspaper reading habit going forward across all available platforms.
While printed newspapers are subject to a 9% rate of VAT, online editions are charged at a rate of 23%. NNI publishers have invested heavily in multi-platform content delivery, however content accessed through any other means than print is subject to the 23% VAT rate. NNI has asked the Minister to use his influence at EU level to try to ensure a harmonisation of VAT rates on both print and online editions.
The newspaper industry directly employs more than 4,500 people in Ireland and contributes more than €800 million per year to the economy, with thousands of other associated and spin-off jobs – printing, distribution, advertising etc – also dependent on the sector.
Apart from the economic/employment aspect, newspapers remain a vital component of Irish society. Not only are newspapers essential to a healthy democracy – holding governments and public bodies accountable – they also provide citizens with an understanding of their rights and responsibilities within the democratic process.
“Our view has always been that VAT on newspapers represents a ‘reading tax’ – an unfair levy on information – which not only interferes with newspapers’ role as a democratic watchdog but makes newspapers less accessible to the public.
“We are calling on the Minister for Finance to further reduce the rate of VAT on printed newspapers in recognition of the unique role that newspapers play within the democratic process and as integral part of Ireland’s education system going forward,” says Frank Cullen, Co-ordinating Director NNI.