Last month the culture ministers of 4 European countries called for lower taxes on ebooks, and now French publishers are launching a campaign. France’s Syndicat National de l’Edition (SNE) has launched a website where it invites visitors to educate EU commissioners on the difference between books and not books.
The site asks supporters to “Tell the European Commission (@UE_Commission) about what is a book and what is not a book” be either tweeting a picture of an ordinary object along with the hashtag #ThatIsNotABook, or the picture of a book or ebook tagged with #ThatIsABook.
While paper books are seen as a cultural item and thus taxed at a lower rate, ebooks are viewed by EU regulators as a service, and they’re taxed at the full VAT (17% to 25%, depending on the country).
France and Luxembourg challenged that tax policy in 2012. They passed laws which lowered the taxes collected on ebooks, and were subsequently sued by the European Commission. Earlier this year the European Court of Justice ruled that the lower tax rates were illegal, and had to be raised to the full VAT rates.
That ruling was a minor setback, and it has deterred no one. This movement has broad support across Europe, including in Italy and Malta, each of which illegally lowered the VAT collected on ebooks, as well as in Poland, Germany, and France, where the culture ministers released a joint statement calling for the lower tax rate. The Italian culture minister also signed the statement.