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VAT and "Photo Books"

VAT and "Photo Books"

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I have a client who is a VAT registered photographer.

He purchases "photo books" and supplies them when he does weddings.

Now there's a bit of an issue with the VAT status of these "books"

Harrier LLC vs HMRC was decided in favour of Harrier that these photo books were zero rated as they are classed as "books", i.e. "has a significant number of leaves, held together by front & back covers that are more substantial than the leaves" So Harrier did not charge VAT on these "books" and the Tribunal decided that was correct.

It is not recognised as a "book" if the pages have the appearance & quality of individual photographic prints" and it would be "capable of being dismantled"

This means that my client will in effect be losing out as he would have to charge his customers VAT on the wediing package as a whole (as the "photo book" is ancillary to the price of the service) but he would not be able to claim anyVAT back on the purchase of the book against the VAT charged as it's zero rated. (Which he thinks is unfair!)

His argument is that

"I think that it could be determined that the books are vatable whatever paper they are printed on as the ruling is - 'appearance and quality of individual photographic prints', not that they are printed on photographic paper. It's a matter of opinion. The books are designed to look like a book of top quality photographs."

He has also had mailers from some suppliers saying that the books are zero rated, but I tend to think that surely it's a mater of opinion whether or not the type of paper that the photos are printed on is deemed as "top quality" is open to debate? (Photos on matt linen paper can look quite nice...)

Can anyone furnish me with their opinions, please?

Thanking you in advance,

Jo Jones


Replies (7)

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By Les Howard
07th Mar 2012 17:46

Re-read the case

follow the above link, and check out the Harrier decision itself, as it provides a list of products, and their VAT liability. Hopefully that will shed some light on your particular case.

On the narrow unfairness point. The client purchases a z/r book, but that product is subsumed within his overall s/r supply. That is the effect of VAT on occasion. (In other instances it works the other way!) But it is unfair.

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Replying to Malcolm McFarlin:
By jcjones20039
08th Mar 2012 10:54

Thanks for your help - that made interesting reading this morning!

Jo Jones

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By George Attazder
07th Mar 2012 18:20

Why not

Read HMRC's brief 04/12.

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Replying to Echo761:
By jcjones20039
08th Mar 2012 08:24

I have - that;s where I got my information from!


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By spidersong
09th Mar 2012 09:24

What's unfair in his view?

From what you've said and the phrasing of his argument he thinks it unfair that his purchase of the books are zero rated so he can't claim back VAT, and that they should be taxable.

So basically he thinks it's better for him if, instead of paying out say £10 a book he pays £12 a book and then receives £2 back 3 months later. He seems to be saying he wants to have a poorer cash flow?

If he just thinks it's unfair that zero rated inputs can go to make up taxable outputs, then suggest to him that instead of doing the wedding photography, he should try doing the wedding catering (zero rated food, non-VATable labour, all going to make one great big taxable supply)!

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Replying to stepurhan:
By jcjones20039
09th Mar 2012 10:38

I see your point!

VAT = unfair!



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By lisler
09th Mar 2012 21:00

The photo book can be charged separately

it is not necessarily an ancillary supply within the total.

Cost of wedding photography can be charged plus VAT with the photo book itemised separately on the invoice and Zero rated.


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