Vat on flyers and other printed matter

Author: Jim Cunliffe
Published: 03/06/2013

We consider that items printed on laminated paper are designed to be kept and therefore not leaflets. On the other hand, orders of service are not normally designed to be kept and may be zero-rated.

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The VAT on flyers debate

Is there VAT on flyers...yes, no, not really sure. This is a funny question which we come across quite a bit.

Below, is the OFFICIAL VAT document which talks about VAT on flyers. Have a read and you decide. But here's our reason for not currently charging VAT on flyers:

Here is our summing up of the issue.

From reading the document below, it admits that a flyer, printed on stock thicker than 170gsm, can still be deemed a leaflet, as long as it is a mix of text and pictures, small enough to be held in your hand, designed to be read a few times and thrown away. If that's it, then flyers should be non-VATable.

  • BUT... it is VATable if:
  • A. It is used as admission to premises (therefore, by using the words 'free admission with this flyer' makes it VATable)
  • B. It is used to obtain a discount on goods or services (so, by using the words 'show this flyer for 20% off' makes it VATable)
  • C. It has a section for 'data collection' (collecting customers names and emails as part of the flyer, then its VATable)
  • And lastly. If you are VAT registered, what do you care anyway, you can claim your VAT back

HM Customs & Excise Notice 701/10

October 2010

3.3 Leaflets

These are also not defined in law and again whether a particular product qualifies as a leaflet is a matter of fact and impression. Leaflets normally:

  • consist of a single sheet of paper not greater than international standard A4 in size (larger publications up to A2 size can be zero-rated provided that they are printed on both sides, folded down to A4 size or smaller and meet the other conditions);
  • are intended to be held in the hand for reading by individuals (rather than for hanging up for general display);
  • convey information;
  • are complete (and not a part work);
  • are supplied in sufficient quantity (at least 50 copies) to permit general distribution;
  • are printed on limp paper; and
  • will either be of an ephemeral nature (designed to be read a few times and then thrown away) or be designed to accompany some other product or service, for example an instruction leaflet.

Items printed on stiff paper and card are not automatically excluded from the definition of leaflets. However, we do regard the use of stiff paper and card as an indicator that the items have a function which would exclude them.

For example if the item's main function were designed to be kept or used for a specific purpose in its own right, rather as ancillary to another supply, it would not be a leaflet. Examples of items that would not be leaflets would be those designed to be used for any of the following:

  • as a calendar;
  • to obtain admission to premises;
  • to obtain a discount on goods or services;
  • as reference material; or
  • for completion or return ).

We consider that items printed on laminated paper are designed to be kept and therefore not leaflets. On the other hand, orders of service are not normally designed to be kept and may be zero-rated.

HM Customs & Excise Notice 701/10 - PDF

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Jim Cunliffe Head of Customer Love
Jim is a prolific networker, small business mentor and a supporter of anything 'community'. He is an ambassador for the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS/SFA) and Young Enterprise on the South Coast. Jim is the Area Leader (Sussex) for FSB (Federation of Small Business) for 2019-2021 and President of BNI Pavilion (Brighton) - What a busy lad! He loves to spend his time encouraging entrepreneurial spirit in everyone he meets. And when it comes to print, there's nothing Jim doesn't know about quality design, ink on paper, promotional gifts and branded clothing. He's an expert in all things branding.
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