Printed Materials: When Do You Pay VAT?

VAT is charged on some printed materials but not all, making it a potentially confusing area for anyone who wants to buy printed goods. Here is a general overview of what you need to know, but be aware that you should always ask your printer for advice on specific printed items at the time of placing your order to factor in the costs.


HMRC Guidelines on VAT

The standard VAT rate is only paid on some printed items. As a broad rule of thumb this is true for all items that you write on such as stationery, greetings cards, forms, postcards and invitations etc.

Promotional or information items of print are zero-rated, meaning they are completely free of VAT. These include, brochures, leaflets, pamphlets and books.

When is a Leaflet not a leaflet?

In some special circumstances an item that is usually zero-rated such as a leaflet or flyer can be subject to VAT, it all depends on the intended use of the item, its content and size.

To be VAT free, a leaflet or flyer must be something that is intended to be read and then discarded. If you print off a leaflet that you intend to stick up in a window or on a wall, for example, this would be classified as a poster and therefore require you to pay VAT.

If you produce a flyer to advertise an event it will be zero rated but if it can be used to get entry to an event or carries a discount for entry into a club – it is classified as a ticket or invitation for VAT purposes, meaning VAT is required. In the same way, if the leaflet or flyer provides a discount on a product or service, this is can be classified as a voucher, and VAT is again applied. To be VAT free it can advertise a discount but can not be used in the transaction of the discount.

Another thing to keep in mind is whether the leaflet has an area to be written on (e.g. a form that must be completed by the user). If it does and it makes up more than 25% of the content of the leaflet VAT should be applied.

Finally to be zero-rated the leaflet must be A4 (297mm x 210mm) or smaller. If the item is A2, for example, it must be printed on both sides and then folded down to A4 or less to stay VAT free.

Be Safe Rather Than Sorry

Within the print industry it is common practise to quote on work excluding VAT as it will usually be before they have seen the artwork. This is not a problem if you are a VAT registered business as you can claim back the VAT. However if you are not VAT registered it would be prudent to check with your print supplier if the quotation includes VAT and if not whether it may be subject to VAT.

If there is any doubt as to the intended use of the printed item your printer will apply VAT.

A Quick Guide

Below are some of the most popular printed items and the VAT status. This list should only be used as a guide.

Further information can be found on the HMRC website by entering 701/10 in the search box provided.




Standard Rated

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