changes everything, apparently. But a touch from the tax office — that can really stir things up.
It did for me this week, anyway. Actually, it’s been longer than a week: several weeks, in fact. My problem? Mark Stibbe’s book, One Touch from the King Changes Everything (9781860245978, Authentic, 2007, £7.99), includes a CD. Nothing remarkable about that, really: lots of books include CDs these days. But this, it boldly proclaims on the cover, is a free CD.
At this point I’m tempted to go into a Pythonesque ‘Dead Parrot’ routine about the word ‘free’… but I’ll leave that to your imagination. My problem was that they charged me VAT on it, then, adding insult to injury, the CD was missing.
Yes, you’ve got the idea: VAT on a free CD that wasn’t even there.
Now I know Jesus said to give Caesar his dues, but maybe someone can enlighten me: how does anyone, even as ruthless a revenue collector as Caesar, calculate the tax on a free, gratis and given-away-for-nothing item — let alone when they haven’t even supplied it?? So I asked.
And I was told, in no uncertain terms, that STL had no discretion over VAT charges. So I asked again. And again. I’m a fairly persistent chap when I get a bee in my bonnet, you see: I don’t like being stung, even for as piffling an amount as 3p… er, yes, that’s what we’re talking about folks. But that 3p was costing me, because VAT has to be accounted for, in my reports to our Accounts Dept, in their reports on to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs… and I happen to feel quite strongly that HMRC are already ripping us off left, right and centre by taxing us on everything they possibly can.
I was also annoyed by the marketing spin: either the CD was free or it wasn’t — shouldn’t Christian publishing houses show more integrity in their marketing? If an item is included in the price, that’s fine: but please don’t try to tell us something is free when you’re charging for it. It was time to take a stand!
I’m glad I did: I can now confirm — following a little flurry of emails — that the CD is, in fact, free and is therefore not subject to VAT. Authentic can hold their heads up high, reputation no longer under threat from allegations of improper spin! And what’s more, I’ve actually got a copy of the CD to give to my customer who didn’t get one first time around!
So I’d like to round this off with a round of applause for STL and for Janette Ivison (Customer Services Supervisor) in particular for sticking with me until this was sorted out: thank you.
The irony of the situation is that if Authentic had got it right in the first place and published the book with the CD rather than release the CD later, I probably wouldn’t have batted an eyelid… and we’d all still be bleeding off that little trickle of ill-gotten gains to HMRC…