Understanding VAT on Printed Items in the UK

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What is VATable with Print

When it comes to printed materials, navigating the Value Added Tax (VAT) regulations can be tricky. At Newstyle Print Limited, we strive to make things easier for you by providing clear and concise information about what printed items are VATable in the UK. Understanding these rules not only helps in budgeting but also ensures compliance with HMRC regulations. Let’s dive into the specifics of VAT on printed items and highlight some key points to keep in mind.

What is VAT?

VAT is a tax applied to most goods and services in the UK. The standard VAT rate is 20%, but some items may be zero-rated or exempt from VAT. For printed materials, whether an item is subject to VAT depends on its type, use, and physical characteristics.

Zero-Rated vs. Standard-Rated Printed Items

Zero-Rated Items

Certain printed items are zero-rated for VAT, meaning no VAT is charged on their sale. These include:

  • Books and Booklets: Literary works, reference books, and schoolbooks, whether bound or loose-leaf with binders, fall under this category. However, items like diaries and address books, which are considered stationery, do not qualify.
  • Brochures and Pamphlets: Typically, these are zero-rated if they are informative and not primarily for completion or detachment. They must not contain more than 25% of blank or detachable areas.
  • Children’s Picture and Activity Books: These are zero-rated unless they are considered toys, such as books with cut-out models or game boards.
  • Leaflets: Must be designed to be read hand-held, contain significant text, and be no larger than A4 size, printed on paper no thicker than 230gsm.

Standard-Rated Items

Some printed items are subject to the standard VAT rate of 20%. These include:

  • Business Cards: Considered standard-rated as they are used for business purposes.
  • Calendars and Diaries: These are classified as stationery.
  • Postcards and Certificates: Especially those designed for completion, if more than 25% of the area is for writing.
  • Posters: Generally, posters are standard-rated unless they are part of a publication like a periodical.

Special Cases and Exceptions

There are specific criteria and exceptions that can affect the VAT status of printed materials:

  • Admission Vouchers: Items like leaflets that offer free admission or discounts are subject to VAT.
  • Vanity Publishing: Publications primarily for the author’s benefit may be zero-rated.
  • Charitable Organizations: Some printed items supplied to charities can be zero-rated, depending on their use.

Tips for Navigating VAT on Print

  1. Check the HMRC Guidelines: Refer to VAT Notice 701/10 for detailed information on zero-rated printed matter.
  2. Consult with Experts: If in doubt, consult with a VAT specialist or contact HMRC for clarification.
  3. Stay Updated: VAT rules can change, so it’s essential to stay informed about the latest regulations.


Understanding the nuances of VAT on printed items can save you time and money. At Newstyle Print Limited, we are committed to helping our clients navigate these complex rules. Whether you need brochures, leaflets, or business cards, we ensure that your printed materials meet all necessary VAT regulations.

For more detailed information, feel free to contact us at Newstyle Print Limited or call us at 01572 771377. We’re here to help!

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