You could do worse than buy some colouring books – but before rushing down to the stationers you need to know how much VAT you will be paying.
According to a recent HMRC announcement many suppliers of adult colouring (and dot to dot) books have been treating them like ordinary books and not charging VAT. HMRC point out that the High Court has decided that “a book is produced on paper or card, consists of a number of leaves and is bound in a stiffer cover. In addition, the book must be designed to be ‘read or looked at’”. Colouring books are not designed to be “read or looked at”.
So, “I have to pay VAT on my colouring book” I hear you say. Not necessarily – they may be VAT free as “children’s picture and painting books”. Note the “may” in the last sentence, without further guidance we still don’t know whether we are going to pay VAT. Fear not – guidance is provided! HMRC say that they accept any colouring or dot to dot book is VAT free unless the books:
• are marked as suitable for adults or grown-ups
• are held out for sale in retail shops together with other adult books that are unsuitable for children or are not appropriately marked as suitable for children when for sale on a website
• contain images reflecting profanity, pornography, violence and illegal acts
So there you have it, many suppliers have been charging VAT incorrectly but from now on, with a few exceptions, they will be able not to charge VAT correctly. Surely a tax system which makes so much complexity out of a simple colouring book has got something wrong with it?
I wonder how long it will be before the High Court is asked to decide whether the Goldilocks Colouring Book has to be subject to VAT because it has images of the heinous crime of porridge theft!