Monday, 6 February 2012

A Luxury Tax on Knowledge?

Since the invention of the printed word, books, newspapers and periodical publications have become our quintessential source of knowledge, entertainment and communication. Due to this information revolution, civilisation raced along an evolutionary super-highway. It became therefore universally accepted that books are an unequivocal essential and should be freely accessible to everyone. And as such, exempt from VAT.

This established, the printed word is gradually being shuffled into retirement by its youthful electronic usurper; the internet. Of course, we die-hard paper lovers will resist it as long as we can, but the ecological and financial stresses of paper books will eventually tempt - or force - us into the electronic library if we wish to sate our hunger for the written word.

I have strayed and bought a Kindle; I have to say it grew on me very quickly. The benefits of the microchip are obvious, especially when you consider just how many volumes these little gadgets can store. And who of us doesn’t have an electronic gadget of one form or another? You cannot function - or legally exist - unless you have numerous electronic tags and gadgets attached to your name.

In which case, I’ll dare to hypothesise that within another decade or so, printed books will be prohibitively expensive, outside of an occasional purchase.We will do the majority of our reading via electronic devices.

All electronic books - no matter what their literary value or purpose - are subject to the full rate of 20% VAT.

Ergo, books are destined to be downgraded to ‘non-essential luxuries’ for the masses.

Here’s a little quote that settles quite comfortably into context, ‘All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

No matter what specious voodoo mumbo is used to explain the purpose of VAT; it was originally levied as a luxury tax, which is exactly the reason why it was NOT levied on books. If we allow this stealth tax to pass quietly by as the e-book revolution rages, we will lose another of our basic civil rights to Napoleon and his comrades.

There is a tiny prick of light at the end of the tunnel; I found this proposal regarding the removal of VAT from e-books on a Parliament data search - ‘Early Day Motions’.
                                                (As an aside, I really think they should come up with another handle. Given the copious excrement we’ve come to expect from politicians, I’m itching to make a cheap joke!)

What do you think?