Arguments against VAT on books irrefutable

Letter published in the FT by Robin Hayley, Chairman of Allen Carr’s Easyway

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I applaud your front-page article on 3 February “Book industry makes clarion call for VAT exemption” and add my voice to those calling for this measure.

The arguments against VAT on books, including the negative impact on education, culture, intellectual progress, literary aesthetics, the knowledge economy and social mobility, are irrefutable.

I have just come from the fabulous Galle Literary Festival, an annual event described by many of the internationally renowned authors attending as the “best literary festival in the world” which attracts a huge influx of tourists and is a massive boon to the economy. What message does this send to the international publishing community?

Furthermore, just as I am in Colombo trying to bring here our internationally best-selling books on stopping smoking, curbing alcohol abuse and tackling obesity, the Government is seeking to make these unavailable to the masses of Sri Lankans who desperately need them. In none of the more than 40 countries where these books are published is VAT charged.

On the anniversary of independence, I met with the Chairman and CEO of Hayleys PLC, a company founded by my great grandfather, to discuss publication of my company’s books in Sinhalese and Tamil. This new tax would certainly impede our project to improve the health and wellbeing of ordinary Sri Lankans and increase the already shocking inequality here between the haves and have-nots. Is this the way to celebrate?

The proposal is myopic in the extreme.

Robin Hayley M.A.

(Oxon), M.B.A.

Chairman, Allen Carr’s Easyway (International) Ltd.

Great grandson of Chas. P. Hayley, Founder of Hayleys PLC

Read full article in Financial Times