If your business is established outside the EU then unequivocally, yes, you must register for VAT to ship your books from within the EU. There is no threshold for registration and the same is true in every EU country.
Are zero-rate books taxable supplies?
Yes. Printed books are considered taxable supplies even though, on most, the UK rate of VAT is 0%. If all your supplies are zero-rated, you will pay no VAT and it’s all just a paperwork exercise – but accounting for even zero VAT remains a legal requirement.
Can I account for the VAT using VAT MOSS?
No. VAT MOSS is specifically for reporting digital sales, such as PDF ebooks, to EU consumers.
Details of the law
The law is set out in detail in HMRC VAT Notice 700/1. Here are the relevant clauses, abridged and reordered to follow more easily:
9.1 NETP – definition
A non-established taxable person (NETP) is any person who is not normally resident in the UK, does not have a UK establishment and, in the case of a company, is not incorporated in the UK.
9.3 When an NETP must register for VAT in the UK
If you make any taxable supplies in the UK, you must:
- register for VAT in the UK
- account for UK VAT to HMRC
2.3 Taxable supplies
A taxable supply is any supply made in the UK which is not exempt from VAT. Taxable supplies include those which are zero-rated for VAT.
3.1 When you have to register for VAT
If you’re an NETP, the registration threshold for taxable supplies does not apply to you, so you’ll have to register for VAT if you make taxable supplies of any value in the UK.
If you only make supplies of certain digital services to consumers in the UK you may instead be able to register for the VAT Mini One Stop Shop (VAT MOSS).