RCB/17/16 VAT—treatment of colouring and dot-to-dot books

Part V16 Forms and other HMRC material

RCB/17/16 VAT—treatment of colouring and dot-to-dot books

RCB/17/16 VAT—treatment of colouring and dot-to-dot books

Revenue & Customs Brief, Issue 17. 13 December 2016

Purpose of this brief

This brief sets out the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) position on the scope of the zero-rate for colouring and dot-to-dot books.


Publishing houses, wholesalers and retailers of books.


There is now a wide range of colouring and dot-to-dot books on the market. Many of these are specifically labelled as suitable for children and/or adults. This brief announces HMRC policy in respect of the VAT treatment of these publications which is effective from 1 April 2017.


The last two years or so has seen a growth of books labelled or described as “adult colouring books” and “adult dot-to-dot books”. Many suppliers have zero-rated these books in the belief they are a general book (like a paperback or hardback novel, for example) placing reliance on VATA 1994 Sch 8 Group 3 Item 1. However, the leading case on what is a book is Customs and Excise Commissioners v Colour Offset Ltd [1995]. In that case, the High Court found that a book is produced on paper or card, consists of a number of leaves and is bound in a stiffer cover. In addition, the book must be designed to be “read or looked at”.

While the adult colouring and dot-to dot books satisfy most of the conditions, they are not

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