Polish challenge to EU e-books VAT ruling

Wed 21st Oct 2015

On 20 October, Poland’s Constitutional Court (Trybunał Konstytucyjny) challenged the recent EU ruling that VAT on e-books must be at member states’ higher, standard rates. Printed books in the EU are entitled to reduced or nil VAT rates.

ECJ rules higher rates on e-books

On 5 March this year, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) had ruled in a test case that France and Luxembourg must raise their e-book VAT rates from their reduced rates, 5.5% and 3% respectively, to their standard rates of 20% and 17% respectively. The Court found that e-books were electronically supplied services and not goods, and that they were not listed in Annex III of the EU VAT Directive as being entitled to reduced VAT rate status. This anomaly with printed books’ VAT status arose because the EU VAT Directive was compiled before the emergence of e-books.

Polish challenge to ECJ

The Polish Court on Tuesday this week requested a review of the above position on the grounds that:

  1. the European Parliament was not consulted on the legislative procedure for the compilation of the EU VAT Directive Annex III point 6, which covers the VAT rate rules on books; and
  2. it breaches fiscal neutrality – meaning the purchase of a printed book versus an e-book equivalent should not be distorted by the differing VAT treatments imposed by the EU

The Polish challenge is the first in a number that are anticipated following the March ECJ ruling. There was limited support for the verdict, and the Commission is likely to encourage a new ruling which supports its own goal of boosting the EU digital economy.