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 the children’s picture and painting books group should not apply.

From 1 April 2017, it will 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, violence or illegal acts.

HMRC have delayed implementation of these changes to allow retailers and wholesalers to use up old stock whilst considering how they intend to market future books that may be suitable for children and capable of being zero-rated.

HMRC have also invited taxpayers to claim for an overpayment of output VAT where books suitable for children have been charged at the standard rate.


Revenue and Customs Brief 17 (2016): VAT - treatment of colouring and dot-to-dot books

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