Wednesday, February 10, 2016

German tax ruling turns e-books into "services rendered" (and I rant about it)

Today, I read something that turned my writer's blood into liquid TNT.

image by Sean Kelly via Flickr
On the surface, it sounds like a boring article—a decision to tax e-books differently than printed books. In Germany, books are considered "cultural assets" and are therefore taxed only 7% instead of the standard 19% (yep, that's one-nine!) for most other goods.

Now the decision has been made that Germany must follow the European Union's ruling that e-books are not "cultural assets" but "services rendered." In order to be a true book, in order to be a cultural asset, the words must be printed on paper.

So what does this mean? It means I could sprinkle grain on a keyboard and let chickens peck away until enough letters came together to fill 250 pages. Then I can self-publish this masterpiece. As long as it's printed, it is a cultural asset. That's what the Finance Court says.

However, if I spend a year writing and polishing a novel, and it is accepted by a respected publisher, who publishes a digital-only version, then all I have done is provided a service. 

A service. Like cutting the neighbor's grass or painting a fence. 

In my opinion, this ruling is not only old-fashioned, but is downright insulting.

What do you think? Am I overreacting here?

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