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Taxation in digital media markets


Journal of Public Economic Theory

Published online on


Digital media goods and digital media platforms exhibit cost structures and network effects that might imply that price and quantity effects of consumption taxes are qualitatively different compared to what we typically find for physical goods. For instance, in most European countries and U.S. states, printed newspapers and books face favorable value added taxes (VATs) or sales taxes. This has probably increased their circulation. In contrast, reducing the VAT rate on digital newspapers has the opposite effects; it increases prices and leads to lower sales. This is not true for ebooks, but a low‐tax policy is still ineffective if the aim is to reduce prices. The primary effect of exempting ebooks from VATs is to increase profits for publishers.