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HMRC internal manual

VAT Books

Books: What kinds of article are eligible?: Books and booklets (Item 1): The physical characteristics of complete books and booklets

  • it will have several pages;
  • it will have a cover that is stiffer than the pages;
  • it will either be bound or adapted for inclusion in a ring-binder.

The first two of these points are self-explanatory. However, some clarification on the third point follows.

Binding and ring binding

We consider that it is the act of binding that makes a collection of papers into a complete book. This can take place either by traditional book-binding, or by the issue of a ring- bound book. We therefore allow zero-rating for:

  • complete sets of loose leaves, adapted for inclusion in a binder of the customer’s choice;
  • a binder (titled or untitled) which is supplied in conjunction with the complete loose leaf pages of a book;
  • a binder bearing the exact title of the book it is intended to contain, but supplied independently of the book itself - provided the book is complete when the binder is issued, loose-leafed, and incapable of existence without its binder.

Two Tribunal decisions deal with the issue of loose-leaf books and ring binders.

  • In A E Walker [1973] VATTR 8, a ring binder was supplied bearing the title of a loose-leaf workshop manual, which would be inserted into it. The tribunal ruled that the ring binder was eligible for relief and this is reflected in our policy as above. However, the decision includes a statement which can be used to argue for an extension of zero-rating to other component parts of books.
  • The tribunal in Marshall Cavendish Ltd [1973] VATTR 65 qualified the A E Walker decision. This tribunal considered a binder which was supplied subsequent to the issue of the first part of a magazine series, with the intention of holding later issues to form a set. It ruled that the binder was not an essential part of a book and that although it might later become part of a book, this was not the case when it was issued. The binder was thus standard-rated, although the magazines could be zero-rated as periodicals in their own right.