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News Corp: VAT treatment of digital newspapers

Speed read
Christmas Eve saw the release of the Upper Tribunal (UT) decision in News Corp UK and Ireland Ltd v HMRC, a taxpayer win that overturned the FTT decision and found that digital newspapers could be zero rated. Applying the ‘always speaking’ doctrine of statutory construction so that legislation can be interpreted in a way which keeps pace with technological developments, the UT decided that the digital newspapers – available in e-reader, tablet, website and smartphone editions, all with some additional video, puzzles and photographic content – can be zero rated. This zero rate is neither an impermissible extension to the zero rates that applied in the UK in 1991 (the standstill rules), nor is it inconsistent with the EU law that said, as regards the position before EC Directive 2018/1713 was adopted on 4 December 2018, that e-publications cannot be taxed at a reduced rate.
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