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VAT rules for printing

You may be surprised to know there are numerous printed items which VAT is not applied (zero rated).

We work with a number of charities, organisations and sole traders who are unable to claim back VAT on purchases – and so this makes a big difference. With the knowledge of what does and doesn’t attract VAT you can tailor your marketing spend to achieve an extra 20% from your budget. Just for you guys we have put together a table of various items and show whether VAT will be applied or not.

VAT on printing

WILL have VAT applied

Acceptance Card
Announcement Cards
Appointment Cards
Business Cards
Compliment Slips
Delivery Notes
Draw/lottery Tickets
Greetings Cards
Invitation Cards
Memo Pads
Menu Templates (self completion)
Order Books
Post Cards
Receipt Books
Visiting Card

WILL NOT have VAT applied

Election Addresses
Fixture Lists
Hand Bills
Holiday and Tourist Guides
Instruction Manuals
Leaflets (see note below)
Menus (fully printed)
Picture Books
Price Lists (fully printed)
Recipe Books
Sheet Music
Sports Programmes
Time Tables
Wine Lists (fully printed)


In order for a leaflet to be Zero Rated it must:

  • Consist of a single sheet of paper not greater than international standard A4 in size (larger publications up to A2 size can be zero rated provided they are printed on both sides, folded down to A4 size or smaller and meet the other conditions)
  • Be primarily intended to be held in the hand for reading by individuals (rather than for hanging up for general display)
  • Convey information
  • Be complete in itself (and not a part work)
  • Are supplied in sufficient quantity (at least 50 copies) to permit general distribution
  • Be printed on a stock which weighs no more than 230 gsm (grammes per square metre)
  • Intended to be read a few times and then thrown away or be designed to accompany some other product or service, for example an instruction leaflet

However, if the leaflet is used for any of the following purposes it will attract VAT.

  • As a calendar
  • To obtain admission to premises
  • To obtain a discount on goods or services
  • As reference material
  • For completion or return
  • For full details of what printed matter is zero rated go to the HMRC website.

VAT free advertising and goods associated with donations for charities

Your charity can advertise VAT-free in any medium that communicates with the public, such as a newspaper or television, providing the advert is placed on someone else’s time or space. This means that if someone charges your charity for an advert, for example in their magazine or on a radio programme or for displaying a poster on their premises, they don’t have to charge you VAT.

The VAT relief does not cover costs for advertising in your own media – for example in your charity’s own magazine, on your own website, or on your own T-shirts etc.

Adverts qualifying for the relief can be on any subject, including staff recruitment. Charities can also purchase pre-printed collecting boxes, envelopes and appeal letters at the zero rate.

Low cost lapel stickers, emblems and badges that you might give as an acknowledgment of a donation can also be supplied to you at the zero rate. Find out more in VAT Notice 701/58 below.

If we produce a package of printed material for your charity, some of which is zero-rated and some of which is standard-rated, we may be able to zero rate the entire package. This is known as the ‘package test’. Find out more by following the link at the end of this section

Go to VAT Notice 701/58 Charity advertising and goods connected with collecting donations

Find out more about the package test in VAT Notice 701/10 Zero-rating of books etc

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