Article: COVID-19 – VAT Zero-rating changes

On 30 April 2020, the Government announced two VAT measures designed to help people and affected businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak. These measures, which are expected to be widely welcomed, temporarily relieve domestic supplies of PPE from VAT, whilst bringing forward the permanent zero-rating for E-publications. 

Temporary zero-rating for the domestic supply of PPE

The Government has announced the introduction of a temporary VAT zero rate on the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), recommended for use in connection with protection from infection with Coronavirus. This took effect from 1 May 2020 and applies to all qualifying supplies until its expiry on 31 July 2020. 

Under current UK VAT law, the standard rate of VAT (20%) applies to the sale of PPE. However, the European Commission has recently indicated its support for temporary VAT reliefs (including zero rates) that are directly linked to the mitigation of the impact of COVID-19. This has enabled the UK to review the VAT treatment of these supplies.

The temporary VAT zero rate will apply to all supplies of PPE which are made between 1 May and 31 July 2020 and which are recommended for use by Public Health England. This includes supplies made from existing stock. Products covered by the zero rate include:

  • Disposable gloves

  • Disposable plastic aprons

  • Disposable fluid-resistant coveralls or gowns

  • Surgical masks – including fluid-resistant type

  • IIR surgical masks

  • Filtering face piece respirators

  • Eye and face protection – including single or reusable full face visors or goggles.

Zero-rating for e-publications brought forward to 1 May 2020

In Budget 2020, the Government announced that it was intending to introduce VAT zero-rating for most e-publications with effect from 1 December 2020. The change has been brought forward due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the associated need for people to stay at home – increasing their use of e-publications: zero-rating of e-publications came into effect from 1 May 2020. 

HMRC’s policy is that supplies of e-publications after 1 May 2020, will be zero rated, unless they are wholly or predominantly devoted to advertising, audio or video content. Affected publications include:

  • Books

  • Booklets

  • Brochures

  • Pamphlets

  • Leaflets

  • Newspapers

  • Journals and periodicals (which include magazines)

  • Children’s picture and painting books.

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