11th Aug 2022

EU court bans e-book tax perks

  • Judgement could have big implications for electronic book industry (Photo: wajakemek | rashdanothm)

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Thursday (5 March) that France and Luxembourg cannot apply a reduced VAT rate on electronic books, but it imposed no fines and gave no deadline to comply.

The court said the reduced rate applies only to "the supply of books ... on all physical means of support" and that "such support is not included in the supply of electronic books".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Electronic books sold in France and Luxembourg will have to respect normal VAT rates (Photo: ChodHound)

The court upheld a European Commission action launched against France and Luxembourg in 2013.

The court also "criticised" Luxembourg for applying a super-reduced VAT rate of 3 percent, with EU law prohibiting rates under 5 percent.

In France, the reduced rate for books is 5.5 percent. 

Electronic books sold in France and Luxembourg will now have to respect the normal VAT rate, of 20 percent in France and 17 percent in Luxembourg.

The ECJ’s judgement could have big economic implications for the electronic book industry, but also for online media.

Although the judgement does not refer to the case, some French online media have also started to apply the 2.1 percent reduced VAT rate which printed press benefits from. They could now be obliged to go back to the 20 percent full rate.

The judgement could also discourage online media in other EU countries to apply a reduced VAT rate, even through the court's formal decision was limited to the two states.

Meanwhile, if France and Luxembourg fail to comply, the onus will be on the commission to start a new action against both countries.

On the same day as the ECJ published its judgement, the French national union of publishers launched a campaign for EU harmonisation of rules on printed and electronic books.

Such a move would likely meet with opposition in several member states, including the UK, Denmark and Estonia.

Call for equal EU VAT rate on books

In 2002 VAT on books in Sweden was lowered from 22 to 6 per cent. Immediately booksellers in Southwestern Sweden engaged in selling Danish books, which was seen as unfair by Danish booksellers who are still left with the Danish 25 per cent VAT rate, according to Länstidningen Östersund.


Russia puts EU in nuclear-energy paradox

There's unprecedented international anxiety about the safety of Ukraine's nuclear reactors, but many European countries are also turning to nuclear power to secure energy supplies.

Almost two-thirds of Europe in danger of drought

Data released by the European Drought Observatory show 60 percent of Europe and the United Kingdom is currently in a state of drought, with farming, homes and industry being affected. Drought conditions have also led to an increase in wildfires.

EU hopeful of Iran nuclear deal

A possible deal to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear pact is within reach, says the European Union. Washington backs the final proposals, but Tehran remains cautious.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us