SNP MSP for Glasgow, Bob Doris, who has been supporting a campaign by the British Universities Finance Directors’ Group to have VAT reduced on e-resources, has won the support of Mike Russell MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for
Education and Life Long Learning.
Former teacher Mr Doris wrote to both the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Mike Russell MSP, ahead of the recent UK budget asking them to support the request by universities across the UK to have VAT reduced on e resources. Currently electronic resources such as e-journals, e-books and online databases attract a VAT rating of 17.5% (soon to be 20%), whilst their paper copy counterparts such as books and magazines are VAT exempt.
Mr Doris was disappointed that the chancellor chose not to act for the benefit of the higher education sector and has still to receive a formal reply from the chancellor to his letter. However in a boost to the campaign Mike Russell MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Life Long Learning has added his support in a letter to Mr Doris saying ‘I am disappointed that the issue you raised does not appear to have been addressed in the recent budget but I would urge you to continue to pursue your case’.
Commenting Mr Doris said:
“The support of Mike Russell MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Life Long Learning is a timely boost for the campaign and I will forward a copy of his reply to me to the British Universities Finance Directors’ Group. There was disappointment when the chancellor missed a golden opportunity to reduce the VAT burden and create a level playing field between books and e-resources.
“I very much hope the UK Government will reconsider the matter with a view to reducing VAT to 5% on such materials. I know the UK is in a difficult financial situation but any reduction in this area could be self financing by boosting the amount of such publications sold and hence maintaining the overall tax yield. This could benefit our higher education sector without increasing the burden on the public purse.
“I continue to welcome the acknowledgement from past and present UK Governments of the importance of zero VAT books but with the growing importance of e-resources for learning, particularly in Scotland’s Higher Education institutions, it is now time to look at reducing the VAT burden on electronic media”.