Online editions are not newspapers in tax terms, UK top court rules

Murdoch takes part as a judge during a global start up showcase during the WSJDLive conference in Laguna Beach

LONDON (Reuters) - Digital editions cannot be treated as "newspapers" for tax purposes, Britain's top court ruled on Wednesday, dismissing an appeal brought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp that its online publications should have been exempt from a sales tax.

News Corp had argued that its digital publications of The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and The Sun on Sunday papers should have been treated like the print versions which are zero-rated for value-added tax (VAT).

It was hoping to recoup more than 35 million pounds paid out between 2010 and 2016.

But the court dismissed its appeal, ruling that for the purposes of VAT exemptions, the term newspaper did not apply to digital editions.

A spokesperson for News UK, News Corp's British newspaper publisher, said it was disappointed with the decision.

"Four courts have now considered the position and all found that the print and digital editions had fundamentally the same public purpose required to justify a zero rating and provided the same content," the spokesperson said.

The British government removed the VAT charge on digital publishing altogether in April 2020 in order to boost online readership of newspapers and e-books during the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by William James)