The minefield that is VAT on print

VAT, we all have to pay it and if you are a business (whether you are VAT registered or not) you have to pay VAT from your suppliers if they are VAT registered. One area that many business owners may not be aware of is that some parts of their marketing does not attract VAT.

These are certain print items that you will be using to promote your business and sometimes print companies send incorrect invoices and charge VAT on zero-rated items which is a cost you could do without incurring.

What is and what isn’t VATable can seem a bit complicated and not always logical –so I thought I would create this handy list (this isn’t an exhaustive list however, so if in doubt contact HMRC!)

So here goes.

#1     The things that have no VAT

The following items are exempt from VAT.

  • Books
  • Booklets
  • Brochures
  • Catalogues
  • Directories
  • Some leaflets and fliers (see #3)
  • Journals
  • Magazines
  • Newsletters
  • Manuals (unless in a ring binder)
  • Maps
  • Sheet Music
  • Newspapers
  • Pamphlets
  • Price lists (without an order form)
  • Timetables

#2     The things that do have VAT applied

The following set of items are all subject to VAT so make sure to check any quotes that the quote either includes VAT on these type of items, or if it says ‘VAT will be applied where appropriate’ you understand that there will be an additional 20% on this price when you receive the invoice.

  • Acceptance cards
  • Business cards
  • Calendars
  • Certificates
  • Compliment slips
  • Coupons
  • Delivery notes
  • Diaries, envelopes
  • Folders
  • Forms
  • Invitations
  • Invoices
  • Labels
  • Letterheads
  • Postcards
  • Posters
  • Questionnaires
  • Stickers
  • Tickets

Also, services such as scanning, lamination and binding when not included with a print job, duplication of photographs, design, photography and photocopying are all VATable.

#3       Leaflets and VAT (now it gets a bit confusing)

So far so good, there is a list of things that are exempt and a list that isn’t. One the first list was leaflets and fliers as these can be zero VAT, but only if they satisfy a number of conditions and criteria –

  • They must convey information i.e. have a significant amount of text
  • They must be designed for delivery by hand (or leaflet distribution) rather than by direct mail or to be put on the wall (as this makes them a poster)
  • They must be made of a single piece of paper
  • They should be printed on paper no heavier than 230gsm (so not postcards)
  • They must be stand alone i.e. not a leaflet that is part of a bigger set such as a direct mail pack or welcome pack
  • If the leaflet has a form such as a reply device, it cannot take up more than a quarter of the printed matter

Oh and if you have leaflets printed that you intend to hole punch and put into a folder or binder, that makes them instantly VATable as they stop becoming leaflets!

Hopefully that hasn’t confused more than it has clarified and it may help prevent you being charged for VAT unnecessarily when dealing directly with printers.

If in doubt, you can always contact us and we will be happy to advise you.