What VAT rate applies to adult colouring and dot-to-dot books? What about colouring books for children?

This is a freeview 'At a glance' guide.

At a glance

HMRC have clarified that only children’s colouring and dot-to-dot books can be zero-rated: the zero-rating does not extend to books marketed for adults.

Adult colouring books have become popular recently, leading to many suppliers treating them as zero-rated under either the general paper-book zero-rating group, or under the children’s picture and painting books group.

  • General books must be designed to be read or looked at to be zero-rated. 
    • It does not include colouring books where any writing is secondary.
  • If the colouring books are marketed for adults then they should not be treated as eligible for zero-rating under the children’s picture and painting books group.

From 1 April 2017, it is no longer be accepted that a colouring book is zero-rated if one of the following conditions is met:

  • They are marked as suitable for adults.
  • They are held out as unsuitable for children, for adults only, are sold with other adult books, or they are not appropriately marked as suitable for children.
  • The images contain profanity, pornography, violence or illegal acts.

These books must be standard-rated.

Useful guides on this topic

Books and Printed Matter
A freeview 'At a glance' guide to VAT on books and printed matter. 

Registering for VAT
A guide to explain when to register for and charge VAT. VAT registration limits and VAT rules after Brexit. What penalties might HMRC issue for late notification of registration?

Is voluntary VAT registration worthwhile?
When can a business voluntarily register for VAT? When would it be beneficial to voluntarily register?

External links

VAT Notice 701/10 Section 3.8

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