A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!

NOTE: the blog is currently dormant but please enjoy the posts we're keeping online.

Julie Moffet . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Sunday, February 1, 2015

I-SPY - a little thing called VAT...

Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.

TODAY'S POST: I-Spy something beginning with ...VAT!

Value Added Tax (VAT)
is a European Union (Europe and the UK) tax on sales. It's the tax that you probably thought didn't apply to you if you were producing e-books, and also: American / publishing with a US publisher / self-publishing from America or at least a non-EU country / in the EU but not yet making £81k from your self-publishing (I wish *g*) ... or any combination of these that used to apply.


As with all tax, it's a looooong, boring, stuffy old subject. But I'm here to bring you the BRIEF highlights so you know how it affects you as a Reader, Published Author, and/or Self-Publishing Author (SPA). Wherever you are in the world!

What was the 2014 situation?
Up until 31 Dec 2014, VAT was charged according to the country you lived in. So if a publisher was US-based (or in another non-EU country) they never came across it. And if an SPA lived in the US (or in another non-EU country), it didn't affect them either.

However, if an SPA (like me in the UK) or your publisher were EU-based and you were selling e-books, you'd have had to pay VAT on your sales to your country's government. BUT as there's always been a minimum threshhold for paying it, most individuals and small businesses never got called on to pay anything.

NOTE: Amazon are based in Luxembourg *dum dum DAH music*. Because that's a EU country, they've been paying tax on their sales to Luxembourg. But the rate there is only 3% on ebooks, whereas it can be anything between that and 28% elsewhere in Europe. This has a large significance when you look at the change that came into place on 01 Jan 2015...

What happened on 01 Jan 2015?
Everything changed. VAT now depends on the country of the BUYER not the SELLER. So it doesn't matter where an SPA or a publisher is based - it's where the CUSTOMERS are that matters.
- a US publisher selling to US customers - no tax. But selling to EU customers - tax has to be recorded and paid to the VAT authorities.
- However small an SPA may be, the same rules apply.
- the seller has to establish the customer's country when they sell, make sure they're accounting for the right VAT rate, AND keep the records of how they proved where that customer is for 10 years.

What's the problem?
Well, in theory it's all meant to charge the seller a tax rate that's relevant to where their sales are, which seems more fair (see Amazon above). Also it means the tax funds will be shifted into the country that's making the sales, not just all of it going - for example! - to Luxembourg.

But the way the legislation has been brought in, it catches a lot of smaller businesses who have been taking advantage of the ease of online, digital business, and it's causing them fresh horror .

For example:
- there's no minimum threshhold. If you sell ONE digital book to ONE customer in the EU, you have to register for and pay VAT.
- the EU countries all have different rates of VAT, so you have to be able to add on a different rate each time you make a sale. Only the large corporations have the resources and systems to do this.
- all customers now have to be identified to one country or another, and records have to be kept of the supporting information for 10 years. This isn't as easy as you'd think, especially in the world of online, immediate sales.
- official returns have to be made to your "base" EU country on a quarterly basis, by country of sale.

Yes indeed. What are the issues that may affect YOU?

A reader in the EU will see an increase in the price of ebooks, because most publishers and bookstores based in the US/outside the EU will now add on the VAT at checkout.

Small, EU-based publishers are withdrawing from direct sales because of the admin burden that's NOT compensated by possible increases in price.

SPAs will have to think carefully about selling to EU customers. If you sell directly - and outside of Amazon etc - you'll have to account for VAT. That means an increased admin burden, and a variable profit on your book's price, depending on the VAT rate in each customer's home country.

Authors may see a different royalty amount earned on sales to EU countries. If the seller adds on the VAT, you'll still get your royalties based on the net price. But some sellers will take the VAT off an inclusive price *before* calculating royalty. So you may get less.

Any good news?
Well, if you sell through Amazon, All Romance, and the established e-publishers - they'll sort the tax out for you. You can rest easy, little will change apart from your readers maybe having to pay more for your books.

If you personally continue to sell direct and worldwide, you'll have to account for VAT for EU customers. But no one's expected to have to account to all the EU countries individually - the VAT authorities allow you to choose one "base" country and make a single, combined return of your sales and the VAT due every quarter.

There are several focus groups campaigning right now for amendments to the legislation, including a minimum limit before sellers have to account for VAT, like there is for trade in physical goods. That would allow most SPAs and small publishers to get back in the game.


Like I said, it's a hot topic at the moment and has barely had time to bed down in people's minds. There are plenty of places to find out more if you want or need, including but not restricted to,,, and your local tax advisor. It's not just ebooks that are affected, but all sales of digital products that are delivered at the "click of a button".

Will keep you posted....:)

Clare London, Author
Writing...Man to Man

Clare also runs an accountancy service for UK authors at Quids & Quills. Pop on over there if she can help with any of your VAT, other taxation and accounting issues :).


Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.
We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!


Rita said...

OH! Clare thank you for this. It has really helped me understand. I just shake me head and wonder. I wouldn't mind paying taxes so much if the money was well used.

Anonymous said...

Well isn't it just awesome that the collective governments are so on top of this whole tax issue.

Now if they could only be half as diligent in working on the petty issues of illiteracy, poverty, and homelessness...

Anne Marie Becker said...

Thank you for the fabulous rundown. :) There's always so much to learn, especially in self-publishing, and the minute you feel like you might have a grasp on it, it wriggles away and morphs. Ugh.

J Wachowski said...

Wow Clare! This is amazing. Thanks for pulling all this info together & explaining. I'm a whiny baby about most of the writing business stuff. "Somebody else do it!" is my motto. Not very mature, I admit!

jean harrington said...

Honest to God, Clare, my eyes are crossing. You must be both right and left brained to figure this one out. Egads! How governments do go on. Thanks for doing all this research for us.

More Popular Posts