The UK VAT rules for printing promotional literature such as leaflets, flyers and brochures are complex to say the least. It can be very difficult to understand why one product will incur the usual standard rate VAT, yet something very similar will be zero-rated for VAT.
To provide some guidance for our customers here is our attempt to explain the VAT rules for flyer design printing and other types of printing. This is designed to be a general guide, so if you need more specific information for your item then please contact us directly or talk to HM Customs and Revenue (HMRC). Unlike other printers and designers who will charge a blanket standard rate VAT on all items, we review each flyer design printing project individually in relation to VAT rules and only charge where we are sure it is appropriate. This is especially important for start-ups and smaller businesses who are not VAT registered and can sometimes see a significant saving if VAT is zero-rated on their flyer design printing.
Which items are always standard rated VAT?
There are some print items which are always classed as VAT standard rated. These include letterheads, compliment slips, business cards, folders, posters, greeting cards and items such as tickets, invitations and gift vouchers. We therefore always charge a standard rate of VAT on these items.
Which items are always zero-rated VAT?
Generally most books and booklets will be zero-rated for VAT as long as they fall under the HMRC’s definition of books and booklets which reads ‘These normally consist of text and illustrations, bound in a cover stiffer than their pages. They may be printed in any language or characters (including Braille or shorthand), photocopied, typed or hand-written, so long as they are found in book or booklet form’.
According to HMRC, brochures do not have an exact definition in law but they do come up with the following definition as guidance ‘Brochures usually consist of several sheets of reading matter fastened or folded together, which are not necessarily bound in covers. They usually contain advertising material in the form of text or illustrations.’
Items fitting these descriptions will be classed as zero-rated as long as they don’t fall under any separate definition or exclusion put forward by the HMRC.
What about the VAT rules for flyer design printing?
Here is where it gets complicated, not least because there is no absolute exact definition for a leaflet or flyer. The distinction which HMRC make is primarily one of permanence.
A leaflet is either a single sheet or folded sheet at A4 size or smaller. It is either designed to be read a few times and then thrown away, or is designed to accompany some other product or service. If the flyer or leaflet fits this general description then it is zero-rated for VAT.
However, there are some key exceptions which means that standard rated VAT would apply.
> If it is designed for general display rather than to be held in the hand
> If it is printed in insufficient quantity to permit general distribution (less than 50 copies)
> If it is larger than A4 size after final folding
> If it is printed onto stiff paper or card. This doesn’t automatically mean that an item becomes standard rated VAT but HMRC make it clear that use of thick paper and card is an indicator which suggests permanence and therefore excludes it from a zero-rated status.
> If it is used to obtain admission to a premises
> If it is used to obtain a discount off products or services
> If it includes a section designed for completion and return such as a form or an area which is designed to be detached from the main leaflet or flyer (i.e. tear-off section)
> If it is laminated or encapsulated
> If it is designed to hold another item – i.e. it fits the definition of a folder
> If it includes die-cutting to a particular shape
This is a general overview of the rules which we apply when making a judgement on whether VAT should apply on flyer design printing. More detailed information can be found on the HMRC website and we recommend that HMRC are always consulted prior to making any judgements regarding VAT payments.
Flyer Design Printing – Add Design specialise in all forms of business stationery design and print including flyers, company leaflets and brochures.