Giles Watling, MP for Clacton, joined the growing number of MPs and Peers calling on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to promote childhood literacy by cutting the illogical tax on eBooks and audiobooks in the next Budget.

At an event hosted by the Axe the Reading Tax Campaign, in honour of International Literacy Day, Giles signed an open letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, calling on him to remove the 20% tax on eBooks, audiobooks, and other digital reading formats.

In December 2018, the EU Council changed the law to allow member states to reduce the rate of VAT on digital reading materials to bring it in line with printed formats. Many countries have already made this change including Ireland, France, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Belgium and Portugal.

The 20% tax on eBooks acts as a barrier to childhood literacy, with research from the National Literacy Trust showing that 45% of children preferring to read on a digital device and that reading on both digital and print formats offers the highest benefit for young people’s literacy.

Young people from low income backgrounds are also more likely to read digitally than their more advantaged peers. The unfair tax also disproportionately hits those who struggle to see or handle print books and require digital formats to read, such as the estimated 2 million living with sight loss in the UK.

Giles said:

‘‘I am delighted to join the Axe the Reading Tax Campaign today in Parliament to call on the Chancellor to end the illogical 20% tax on eBooks. We should be doing everything we can to promote reading and learning amongst children and young people in the Clacton constituency, and elsewhere. This tax must be abolished in order to protect access to reading, learning and knowledge for all’’ 

Stephen Lotinga, CEO of the Publishers Association, who support the campaign, said:

‘’the Government has rightly never applied tax to print books in order to protect access to knowledge and learning. This principle must also be applied to digital reading formats, which many people need in order to experience the joys of reading’’