VAT rate for news media, a critical element of post-pandemic recovery for independent media across Europe

2023-06-29. The Board of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), meeting during the 74th World News Media Congress taking place in Taipei, Taiwan from 28-30 June 2023, calls on governments of the European Union Member States to respect the spirit of the decision taken by the EU finance ministers in 2021 on the VAT rate for news media.

Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash

by WAN-IFRA Staff | June 29, 2023

The approved amendments to the VAT directive allow Member States to apply VAT zero rates to news publications across both print and online formats.

The Board of WAN-IFRA agrees that such a provision allows for immediate relief to a sector that continues to be severely impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and which faces sustained and fierce competition from online platforms.

The Board notes that such pressure comes at a time when news media are increasingly expected to excel at their public interest role as watchdog over European democracies.

The Board acknowledges with regret the proposals advanced in Estonia, Czech republic and Norway to remove the VAT exemption or increase VAT on journalism, a move that would directly imperil the ability of the news media to hold power to account, fight disinformation, and in some cases to survive financially.

Countries around the world regard the European Union as a beacon of democracy that guarantees the rights of journalists to report freely, and of news media to perform their crucial role in society to provide verified, trustworthy, high-quality news and information.

The Board of WAN-IFRA agrees with UNESCO that tax benefits such as a reduced or, ideally, zero-rate VAT is an efficient means to protect independent media and journalists’ safety by ensuring the economic viability of independent news media.

The Board, therefore, urges all Member States to follow the example of Ireland, whose government decided to apply from 2023 a zero VAT rate on newspapers and digital subscriptions in recognition of the “critical role that newspapers play in our society.”

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