HarryPotterColoringBook1_coverAdult coloring books may very well be responsible for saving the publishing industry (at least temporarily) from the scourge of e-books, but it turns out that not all is necessarily rosy. The Bookseller reports that UK tax authorities have abruptly decided to classify adult coloring books not as books, which qualify for a discounted VAT rate, but as “incomplete” books which need to pay the full 20% VAT (value-added tax, the European equivalent of “sales tax”) rather than the discounted VAT rate that applies to ordinary books and children’s coloring books.

This kind of bureaucratic snarl will be familiar to e-book fans, given that Europe has classified e-books not as books but as “electronic services” and charged full VAT rates on them, too. This in turn led to the VAT-MOSS mess which made selling e-books into Europe such a peril.

It seems like Europe just has a bureaucracy problem where books of all kinds are concerned. Hopefully they’ll get it all straightened out soon.


  1. I’m no fan of bureaucracies, particularly of the EU variety, but despite the name, a coloring book isn’t the kind of book that should qualify for a VAT discount. It’s more like a board game and should be taxed as such.

    For those who have yet to understand how EU regulations flowing out of Brussels stiffle creativity and initiative, here’s a just-released documentary.


    Years ago, I heard an old European joke that as I non-European I had trouble understanding. It went like this:

    “Belgium is like Germany, but with megalomania.”

    That makes no sense, I thought. Historically, Germany has had a serious problem with megalomania. That’s why Europe had two nasty world wars in the last century. Then I realized the point those Europeans were making, “You think the Germans are bad at always wanting to dominate. Well, they’re nothing compared to the Belgians.
    Even more depressing, there a Beligian equivalent of Hitler, although few know of him. He’s King Leopold and his murderous regime in the Congo is fictionalized in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Mark Twain also attacked what happened in his 1905 King Leopold’s Soliloquy. Belgium is only slowing waking up about those horrors.


    While the EU isn’t engaging in genocide, Belgium was perhaps the worst possible choice for the EU headquarters. It would have been better to place it in Italy, perhaps in Rome or, better yet, lovely Florence. The Italians aren’t obsessed with running the lives of others. Heck, they don’t even try to run their own lives. “Live and let live.”

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