Germans Call for Reduced Taxes on eBooks

The US may be blessed with lower taxes on the ebooks we buy (it’s the downside of fewer social services) but most of Europe isn’t so lucky. In Europe ebooks are taxes as a service with 17% to 25% VAT bundled into the retail price (and not the 5% to 12% most EU member countries apply to paper books) and a lot of people are not happy about that.

Bitkom released the results of a survey today which shows that there is strong support in Germany for lowering the taxes on ebooks. Almost nine out of ten Germans (87%) support charging a lower tax of 7% on ebooks sold in that country rather than the full 19% collected on most goods and services.

The results are based on a survey of 2,310 German consumers which showed that only 8% of respondents thought that ebooks should be taxed at a different rate than paper books, and 5% actually took the position that paer books should be taxed at a higher rate.

Bitkom calls on the German gov’t to respond by lowering the tax rate, noting that a recent EU court ruling (C219 / 13-K, dated 11 September 2014)  gave the gov’t leeway to do so.

The topic of taxes on ebooks is becoming a pressing issue as the new year approaches. Thanks to a change in EU tax law, retailers will soon have to start collecting taxes based on where the customer is located in the EU, and not where the retailer is located. The change neatly wipes out what is known as the Amazon loophole, the sweetheart deal that Amazon (and a number of other retailers) secured by setting up their ebook operations in Luxembourg or other low tax environs.

The change in EU tax law is expected to increase the average price of ebooks in some parts of the EU, including the UK, but it’s not clear how Germany and other parts will be affected.

A number of countries have fixed price book laws, including Germany, so the price of ebooks published in those countries cannot go up without direct publisher action. eBooks published elsewhere, on the other hand, might see a price increase. The KDP contract suggests that Amazon may have that power, and their less public contracts with publishers outside of Germany might also grant them some wiggle room on price.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Self Publishing Bibel

images by pj_vanf


Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. […] From The Digital Reader, Germans call for reduced taxes on ebooks. […]

  2. italian20 November, 2014

    in italy too there is a new law proposal for applying to ebooks the same (reduced) VAT applicable to paper book, 4% instead 22%. discussion are ongoing on possible veto from EU

    1. Nate Hoffelder20 November, 2014

      I hadn’t heard that, thank you.

  3. Ralph Hummel21 November, 2014

    There is a rather “impressive” type in the articl’es first paragraph that reads “… .Almost none out of ten Germans (87%)…”.
    Should that not read “… .Almost nine out of ten Germans (87%)…”?

    It is however delousinal to think that any government in the EU at present will lower taxes voluntarily on E-books if indeed they practice a higher VAT tax-rate than for the print versions unless taken to court based on the cited EU-high court rulings cited in the article. They are all just too strapped for cash and the consumer through VAT is an excellent cash-cow as individually they bear no weight and it is difficult to get organized in consumer defense groups when you are talking about literally a few cents difference betwen a 20% or 7% VAT tax rate on individual e-book titles.

    1. Nate Hoffelder21 November, 2014

      Heh. “delousinal”

  4. Ralph Hummel25 November, 2014

    Yep, caught that too…but too late. Wrote the comment under the influece of not enough sugar in my blood… (/end lame excuse).
    I should have written: “It is however delusional….” – Guess my every-day French got in the way!

    1. Nate Hoffelder25 November, 2014

      Sorry if that came across mean; I just thought it was a funny typo – especially when you corrected my typo.

  5. […] ebook tax situation in Europe would best be described as complicated, and thanks to today's news that is only going to be more true next month. The Bookseller reports […]


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