On 28 January 2021 the Court of Appeal handed down judgment in the long-running dispute between News Corp UK (the owner and publisher of The Times, The Sunday Times, and The Sun newspapers) and HMRC on the VAT treatment of digital versions of the paper editions. The paper editions (as with books, journals, periodicals and similar items) have been zero-rated for VAT purposes since the UK joined the EU in January 1973.
The Upper Tribunal had decided that the “always speaking” principle of statutory construction allowed an extended, up-dated, meaning of “newspapers” to include these digital editions, and News Corp UK would be entitled to repayment of the VAT component of these supplies over a number of years. The Court of Appeal allowed HMRC’s appeal, concluding that the word “newspapers” in Item 2 Group 3 of the VAT Act 1994, when read in its full context, cannot be given the expansive interpretation for which News Corp UK had contended.
Nigel Pleming QC, together with Eleni Mitrophanous QC (of Matrix Chambers), was instructed by HMRC.
Click here to read the full judgment.