What VAT rate applies to adult colouring and dot-to-dot books? What about colouring books for children?

This is a freeview 'At a glance' guide to VAT on colouring books.

At a glance

HMRC have clarified that only children’s colouring and dot-to-dot books can be zero-rated: the zero-rating does not extend to books marketed for adults.

Adult colouring books have become popular recently, leading to many suppliers treating them as zero-rated under either the general paper-book zero-rating group or under the children’s picture and painting books group.

  • General books must be designed to be read or looked at to be zero-rated. 
    • It does not include colouring books where any writing is secondary.
  • If the colouring books are marketed for adults then they should not be treated as eligible for zero-rating under the children’s picture and painting books group.

From 1 April 2017, it is no longer be accepted that a colouring book is zero-rated if one of the following conditions is met:

  • They are marked as suitable for adults.
  • They are held out as unsuitable for children, for adults only, are sold with other adult books, or they are not appropriately marked as suitable for children.
  • The images contain profanity, pornography or gratuitous nudity, violence or illegal acts.

These books must be standard-rated.

Useful guides on this topic

Books and Printed Matter
What are the VAT rules on books and printed matter? What about e-publications?

Registering for VAT
When should a business register for and charge VAT? What are the VAT registration thresholds? What penalties might HMRC issue for late notification of registration? When do you need to file a VAT return?

Is voluntary VAT registration worthwhile?
When can a business voluntarily register for VAT? When would it be beneficial to voluntarily register?

External links

VAT Notice 701/10 Section 3.8


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