< /p> Bookstore – illustration photo.
Prague – The Czech Center of the International PEN Club addressed the government, parliamentarians and senators with an open letter urging the state not to increase the value added tax (VAT) on books. In the Czech Republic, a reduced VAT rate of ten percent has been applied to books since 2015, but it is one of the highest in Europe. The government is considering changing VAT on some services and goods. However, Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) announced today that he will not support an increase in VAT on books and newspapers, because the cabinet does not want to endanger education or independent journalism.
In a letter available to ČTK, the PEN club states that a possible increase in the tax on books would be contrary to the procedure of the European Union, which through its bodies and institutions paves the way for the introduction of a zero VAT rate on books.
“The book market no longer has a meaningful possibility to compensate for the increase in VAT by increasing the final price for citizens, without this having very negative effects on the availability of books and the ability of citizens to get to these books,” states the PEN club. In recent weeks, the Union of Booksellers and Publishers of the Czech Republic, the Publishers' Guild and the Translators' Association also protested against the increase in VAT on books.
“If the considered increase in VAT on books as part of the increase or unification of VAT rates would really occur, the VAT on books in the Czech Republic would be the highest in Europe, with the exception of Denmark, which, however, returns the entire amount of VAT collected in this way to the development of the book market,” stated the PEN Club . According to him, an increase in VAT would lead to a narrowing of the offer of books and their reduced availability for lower-income groups of the population. “As a result, it would then lead to further opening of the scissors and strengthening the fragmentation of our society, which none of us wants,” the letter to the government states. According to the Czech PEN Club, the sum of the negative effects of the VAT increase on books would greatly exceed the benefit from the collection of this tax.
In a January interview with ČTK, the Prime Minister stated that economic experts are now calculating the effects of any changes. He personally thinks that two rates would make the environment clearer, clearer and would bring more stability. In today's interview with Deník, however, he stated that the rate for books and newspapers should not be increased – according to him, the government does not intend to do anything that would threaten independent journalism and education. “We don't want to go down that road,” Fiala said. He emphasized that there are various variants in the consideration of VAT changes, none of which has yet been decided.
According to the media, Finance Minister Zbyněk Stanjura (ODS) is considering the fact that instead of the two reduced rates of 10 and 15 percent, there should be from next year only one, in the amount of 13 or 14 percent. The new single reduced rate should exist alongside the basic VAT rate of 21 percent that applies to most goods and services. When considering the change, according to Fiala, the government will also consider the examples of some countries that temporarily reduced or abolished VAT on certain products, but then found out themselves that the impact on the budget was too high.