The court held that, in line with the VAT Directive and Implementing Regulation, e-books qualify as electronically supplied services, and as such reduced VAT rates cannot be applied. Therefore, the VAT treatment of printed books (or more precisely, “books on of all physical means”, according to the VAT Directive), which are taxable at the reduced VAT rate in most EU countries, cannot be extended to e-books. In this respect, the ECJ also quoted its previous decision in the Finnish K Oy case, in which the court decided that the reduced VAT rate may be used for the sale of books on CDs or USB siticks, as these are “physical means”.
Accepting the ECJ’s argumentation and strict interpretation of the relevant legislation, the only option to use the reduced VAT rate for e-books as well, is to change the legislation. This is likely to be done as part of an overall review of the VAT system, which will be a longer process.