VAT on Printing Explained

VAT on Printing Explained

Read Time: 3 Minutes


05 Nov 2019

Updated: 11th May 2023

Are all printed products such as leaflets, posters and business cards 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 our printing services work 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.


VAT on Printed Products

Although most prices on our website include VAT on printing, 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. The 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 regarding VAT on flyers. Leaflets 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 on printing is chargeable if your print product is used for admission to an event. 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 poster’.

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, like diaries, calendars and record books.  


HMRC has a helpful guide with the full details of the VAT on printing services.


What Happens if I Need to Pay VAT on Printing?

If you are using our printing services and purchasing something in the exceptions list above with instantprint, our team checks every single piece of artwork for many different things and VAT is one of these. If you are required to pay VAT on your printing, 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 about VAT on printing flyers or our services, please get in touch with our team and we’ll be happy to help.


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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.