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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