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VAT on Printing Explained

VAT on Printing Explained

Read Time: 3 Minutes


05 Nov 2019

Are all printed products subject to VAT? Some items are tax-free, but there are a few printed materials you will need to pay VAT on. This short guide will tell you how VAT and printing works so you’re never caught out!


What is VAT?

VAT is a consumption tax used in the EU based on the added value to goods and services. It was set up in 1973 as a result of Britain entering the European Economic Community. It stands for Value Added Tax and is the third-largest source of government revenue have income tax and National Insurance. 

It is a general tax applied to all commercial activities involving the production and distribution of goods, including print, and is charged as a percentage of the price to the customer.

Why Do We Have VAT?

When the EU was formed, the original six countries used different forms of taxation. The VAT tax was made to create a level playing field across the countries in the EU, which needed a fair, neutral and transparent turnover tax system that worked across the board.

Like any kind of tax, VAT is a source of revenue for the government’s public spending – in fact, VAT is quite a large proportion of the UK government’s income.


VAT on Printed Products

Although the majority of prices on our website include VAT, it’s important to know which printed products are VATable and which are zero-rated. This table shows which printed matter has standard rated VAT and which products are VAT free. Standard VAT rate is 20%.


Zero-Rated VAT Rated
Books Business Cards
Booklets Calendars
Brochures Certificates
Catalogues Compliment Slips
Colouring Books (Children's) Coupons
Comics Delivery Notes
Directories Diaries
Flyers* Envelopes
Journals Exhibition Stands
Magazines Greetings Cards
Manuals Gift Vouchers
Maps Forms
Menus Invitations
Sheet Music Invoices
Newspapers Labels
Orders of Service Laminated Products
Pamphlets Letterheads
Price Lists (Without an Order Form) Manuscripts
Recipes Medical Records
Sports Programmes Order Books or Forms
Timetables Postcards
Travel Brochures Posters
  Presentation Folders
  Price Cards and Tags
  Roller Banners
  Table Talkers


*Please note that there are certain criteria a flyer or leaflet must meet for the product to be zero-rated. There must be a significant amount of text on at least one side of the leaflet to ensure it is being printed as something to be read hand-held, as opposed to posting on a wall. As well as this it must be no larger than A4 and printed on paper no thicker than 230gsm stock.


Are There Any Exceptions?

Some printed products in the zero-rated list may still be applicable for VAT if they have or can be used for any of the following:

1.    Voucher of Admissions
VAT is chargeable if your print product, e.g. a flyer or leaflet, is used as admission to premises, for example using the words ‘free admission with this leaflet’.

2.    Discount Usage
VAT is chargeable if your print product is used to obtain a discount on goods or services, for example using the words ‘25% off with this flyer’.

3.    Writable Area
VAT is chargeable if your printed product has an area designed to be written on. For example, invitations, certificates, postcards or forms. To be charged, this area must cover at least 25% of the artwork.

4.    Writable Booklets
All books and booklets are exempt from VAT charges unless they are designed and printed to be written in, for example diaries, calendars and record books. 


For full details on VAT, please find HMRC’s official line here.


What Happens if I Need to Pay VAT for Printing?

If you are printing something in the exceptions list above with instantprint, our team checks every single piece of artwork for a number of different things, and VAT is one of these checks. If you are required to pay VAT, we’ll be in touch to let you know how much you need to pay and how to do this, so there’s no need to worry!

If you have any more questions on VAT on printing, please get in touch with our team and we’ll be happy to help.


Laura Mucklow

About the Author

Hi! I’m Laura and I’m the Head of instantprint. I’m dedicated to using my experience to help small businesses make the most out of their marketing.