Printing & Printed Matter

1. Introduction

This leaflet aims to provide a brief guide to the scope of each of the three rates of VAT (zero, second reduced and standard) in relation to the supply of printed matter. The general position is that books are zero rated, newspapers and periodicals are subject to the second reduced rate and other printed matter including stationery are liable at the standard rate. The second reduced rate, currently 9% was introduced on the 1st July 2011 and still applies.

2. Printing

2.1 Printing includes all forms of reproduction i.e. lithography; off-set; heliography; photogravure; engraving; duplicating; embossing; photography etc. in letters of any alphabet, figures, shorthand or other symbols, braille characters, musical notations, pictures or diagrams.

2.2 The rate chargeable for printing depends on the publication/product being printed. For example, the printing of books qualifies for the zero rate while the printing of newspapers and periodicals attracts VAT at the second reduced rate.

3. Printed matter liable at the zero rate

3.1 The zero-rate of VAT applies to printed books and booklets including atlases. It also covers children’s picture, drawing and colouring books, and books of music. Annual publications, even a periodical which is published once a year as a special edition which does not replace, for example, the standard monthly edition are liable to VAT at the zero rate.

3.2 In order to qualify for the zero rate, a publication must meet the four requirements listed hereunder:-

  1. it must consist essentially of textual or pictorial matter,
  2. it must have a distinctive cover, that is at least the outside of the front cover must be devoid of body text,
  3. it must comprise not less than four leaves (eight pages) exclusive of the cover, and
  4. it must be bound (loose-leaf or otherwise), or stitched or stapled.

3.3 Parts of large works published over a limited and pre-determined period including a related binder supplied free of charge are not regarded as periodicals, and provided they qualify as printed books or booklets or will qualify as such when the series is completed, are zero-rated.

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4. Printed matter liable at the second reduced rate

  • All newspapers and periodicals are liable to VAT at the second reduced rate. This includes sectoral publications (sports/entertainment, fashion/health/beauty, mens/womens, computers/cars etc.).
  • Holiday/tourist brochures, prospectuses, leaflets/flyers, programmes, catalogues (including directories) and similar printed matter. Similarly newspapers which deal with sectoral issues (e.g. sports papers) attract the second reduced rate.
  • Maps, hydrographic and similar charts, and sheet music not in book or booklet form.

5. Printed matter liable at the standard rate

5.1 All printed matter not liable to VAT at the zero rate or the second reduced rated is automatically liable at the standard rate.

5.2 Essentially this covers all stationery and the like, advertising and other printed matter. This includes;

  • books of stationery, cheque books and the like
  • calendars, greeting cards, business cards, identification cards
  • diaries, organisers, yearbooks, planners and the like the total area of whose pages consist of 25% or more of blank pages for the insertion or recording of information
  • albums and the like
  • books of tokens, of tickets or of coupons
  • other printed matter devoted wholly or substantially devoted to advertising.

5.3 Examples of other printed matter attracting the standard rate are posters, beer mats etc. A detailed list is given in Appendix 1.

5.4 It should be noted that the supply of all publications in other formats e.g. CD’s, audio books and audio cassette tapes is liable to VAT at the standard rate.

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6. Internet

When printed matter is purchased and downloaded via the internet it is considered to be a service within the meaning of electronically supplied services. This will have implications for non-EU suppliers where the customer is a private consumer. For further information on this, including the optional special scheme which allows EU businesses to register in an EU Member State only please consult VAT Information Leaflet eServices and Broadcasting. All digitised publications regardless of their VAT rate when printed (e.g. a book liable at zero rate) are treated as a supply of services rather than goods and are classified at the Standard Rate.

7. Goods Sold Together

7.1 Where printed matter is supplied with other goods for a single price it may be considered to be:

  • A composite supply, made up of a principal supply and one or more ancillary supplies.
  • A multiple supply, made up of more than one individual supply.

In the case of a composite supply, the rate of VAT applicable to the entire supply is that applicable to the principal supply. This would arise where the ancillary elements would not realistically be sold on their own without the principal element (e.g. a computer manual sold with a computer).

In the case of a multiple supply, VAT is chargeable at the rates applicable to each individual supply. A multiple supply exists where each individual constituent is physically and economically dissociable from the other i.e. is capable of constituting an aim in itself (e.g. a newspaper with a CD).

Where the cost to the supplier of an individual supply (say, a CD) does not exceed the lesser of 50% of the total tax exclusive consideration chargeable or €1, the supplier may choose to disregard the relevant individual supply (the CD) for the purpose of applying the appropriate VAT rate.

7.2 For further details on goods sold together please see Revenue’s VAT Information Leaflet Mixed Supplies of Goods and Services.

8. Acquisitions from other Member States of the EU and Imports

The rates which apply to publications printed within the State apply similarly to publications acquired by traders from other Member States of the EU and to those imported from outside the EU. Also, Government Departments, local authorities, health boards, public hospitals, educational establishments, charities, trade unions, political parties and other similar bodies must account for VAT on the intra-Community acquisition of printed matter where their intra-Community acquisitions exceed the Intra-Community Acquisitions threshold in any period of 12 months. Private individuals purchasing publications from other EU Member States are not liable for Irish VAT as VAT will already have been charged in the supplying Member State.

However, private individuals importing printed matter from outside the EU are liable to VAT at the appropriate rate.

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9. Types of Printed Matter:

VAT Rates: A list in alphabetical order of the VAT ratings of the various types of printed matter is given at Appendix I.

Further information

Enquiries regarding any issue contained in this Information Leaflet should be addressed to the Revenue District responsible for the taxpayer's affairs. Contact details for all Revenue Districts can be found on the Contact Details Page

This leaflet is issued by :

VAT Interpretation Branch ,
Indirect Taxes Division,
Stamping Building,
Dublin Castle.

April 2014

Appendix 1

Types of Printed Matter, VAT Rates

An alphabetical listing of the various types of printed matter and the VAT rates applicable
Type of Publication VAT Rates
Account Books Standard
Albums Standard
Annual Reports 0%
Annuals 0%
Atlases 0%
Audio Cassette Books Standard
Beer Mats Standard
Bingo Books Standard
Books, Booklets (other than catalogues) including books consisting wholly or mainly of reproductions of paintings 0%
Bookmarks etc. (included with books) 0%
Bookmarks etc. (not included with books) Standard
Braille Books 0%
Brochures Second reduced
Calendars Standard
Cards e.g. business, greeting. Standard
Catalogues Second reduced
Charts, hydrographic and similar Second reduced
Cheque Books Standard
Children’s Drawing & Painting Books 0%
Children’s Picture Books including ‘cut out’ and ‘stand up’ types. 0%
Comics Second reduced
Computer Manuals 0%
Copy Books Standard
Coupons, Books of Standard
Diaries (however, see paragraph 5.2). Standard
Diaries/Organisers/Planners Standard
Dictionaries 0%
Directories Second reduced
Dust Covers (included with books) 0%
e-Books Standard
Encyclopedias 0%
Examination Papers (certain) 0%
Exercise Books Standard
Fixture Lists Second reduced
Forms Standard
Globes Standard
Hymn Books 0%
Hymn Sheets Second reduced
Invitation Cards Standard
Journals (Diary) Standard
Journals (Research)* Second reduced
Leaflets including flyers Second reduced
Magazines Second reduced
Maps Second reduced
Missals 0%
Missalettes (Mass Leaflets) Second reduced
Music, books of music, other than in book or booklet form 0%
Music copy book Standard
Newspapers Second reduced
Note Books Standard
Parts of large works published over pre-determined period including related binder supplied free of charge 0%
Passports Standard
Periodicals Second reduced
Photo Books / Photo Albums (certain) 0%
Photocopying Standard
Picture Books i.e. books of pictures (other than catalogues) 0%
Postal Stamps, Books of Postal Stamps** Standard
Posters Standard
Postcards including books of postcards Standard
Prayer Books 0%
Printed music other than in book or booklet form Second reduced
Programmes Second reduced
Prospectuses Second reduced
Puzzle books excluding periodicals 0%
Sheet Music Second reduced
Stationery Standard
Stamps, Books of postal stamps** See Postal Stamps
Telephone Directories Second reduced
Tickets, Books of Standard
Timetables Second reduced
Tokens, Books of Standard
Trade Catalogues/Promotional Literature Second reduced

* Where journals are normally paid for by annual subscription, have their pages sequentially numbered by reference to the completed work and are supplied with a binder or are bound for no extra cost in book form at the end of the year, they are regarded as qualifying for the zero rate.

** It should be noted that the supply of stamps new and unused, for example, by An Post is exempt from VAT. However, the printing of postal stamps is liable to VAT at the Standard rate.

This information leaflet which sets out the current practice at the date of its issue is intended for guidance only and does not purport to be a definitive legal interpretation of the provisions of the VAT Consolidation Act 2010.

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