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HMRC internal manual

VAT Books

Books: Printed matter supplied with services: Subsidy or vanity publishing

An author who is unable to have a work published through the usual commercial channels may sometimes pay for it to be published. This is known as either subsidy publishing or vanity publishing.

Subsidy or vanity publishing agreements between publishers and authors may take a number of forms and this can cause problems in determining the nature and value of the supplies involved.

In a minority of cases, the publisher, in return for a payment from the author, produces a quantity of books which are all delivered to the author. Here the payment by the author to the publisher is a consideration for a supply of books and is zero-rated.

More usually the author is supplied only with a small number of copies of the book, while the bulk of the print run remains with the publisher. The publisher will undertake to market these remaining books and pay the author a royalty on copies sold. The publishing services will also include providing statutory copies to the British Library and other libraries and arranging for details to be included in directories such as Whitakers Books in Print. In such cases, payment by the author to the publisher is seen partly as a consideration for the supply of the books delivered to the author (zero-rated), and partly as a consideration for publishing services (standard-rated). The value of the zero-rated supplies will relate to the total number of books printed, the number supplied to the author, the retail price of the books, and the costs of production.

In order to simplify the calculation of the value of the zero-rated and standard-rated supplies, we have reached a trade agreement with the British Printing Industries Federation, a copy of which is in Notice 700/57 Administrative agreements entered into with trade bodies.