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In News Corp UK & Ireland Limited v HMRC [2019] UKUT 0404 (TCC), the Upper Tribunal (UT) found that electronic editions of newspapers should be treated in the same way as printed newspapers for VAT, and zero-rated.

The FTT concluded that, although the digital versions were “essentially similar in content to and shared the same characteristics as the newsprint editions”, they were not “newspapers” within the legislation. As a result, they could not be zero-rated.

News Corp appealed the decision to the UT, arguing that the zero-rating of publications was introduced to promote literacy, democratic accountability and information dissemination. Electronic versions achieved the same objective. It also argued that the FTT decision violated the principle of fiscal neutrality.

The UT said that the FTT had reached the wrong decision in concluding that the legislation limited zero-rating to goods only.

It found common ground that the EU has so far not legislated in respect of zero-rating, aside from the standstill provision in Article 110. 

It accepted News Corp’s argument that electronic versions of newspapers shared the same purpose and characteristics as printed newspapers and therefore digital versions of newspapers should be zero-rated for VAT purposes. 

Comment

It is expected that HMRC will challenge the decision on appeal as the decision has a wider impact on organisations that supply electronic publications. 

Subscriber guides

Making Tax Digital for VAT

Errors: VAT how to correct

External links

News Corp v HMRC [2019] UKUT 0404

News Corp UK v HMRC [2018] TC 06385 FTT