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Norway: VAT exemption for electronic news services

As from 1 March 2016, electronic news services will be VAT exempt (zero rated) in Norway.

1)  Background

In 2015, the Norwegian Government notified to the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) a measure relating to Value Added Tax (VAT) on electronic news services. The notified measure concerned VAT zero rating for electronic news services.

News on paper (newsprint) has been zero rated for years in Norway. The zero rating applies only to newspapers published regularly with at least one edition a week. The notification to ESA was based on the same basic set of conditions for VAT zero rating on printed news.

In January 2016 ESA approved the exemption until 1 March 2022.

The exemption will enter into force as from 1 March 2016.

2)  The Exemption

The exemption is applicable for electronic news services that:

a) mainly include news and current affairs content from different areas of society,
b) has the general public as target audience,
c) has an editor in chief, and
d) is published at least once a week

The medium´s content is the principal condition for zero rating. For news broadcasting through TV or radio, the VAT zero rating will apply only to channels that mainly broadcast a broad range of news. Channels providing either only one type of programs (except news), such as sport/entertainment, or channels providing a wide spectrum of programs, such as entertainment, drama, movies, game shows, sports etc., will not fulfil the conditions. Weekly popular press publications typically focusing on entertainment and celebrity content, will not fulfil the conditions for zero rating either.

The medium must have an editor in chief. Blogs or non-editorial services like content generators, search engines, social media etc. do in general not have an editor in chief. Such services will consequently not be subject zero rating.

3)  Bundled Services

Some suppliers provide a combination of news services and other services, such as access to wine societies, music streaming, films etc. In principle, each service must be assessed separately.

If the non-news service is charged separately, it will as a main rule not be entitled to VAT zero rating.

For non-news services not charged separately, the starting point is that they are considered as separate services. However, if the news service is the main element and the other service is of minor importance to the buyer, the service may be considered a part of the VAT zero rated news service.

4) Foreign Suppliers

Foreign suppliers with no establishment in Norway selling electronic news services to private individuals in Norway (B2C) will be obliged to register. These suppliers can, on certain conditions, choose to register via the Norwegian VOES scheme (simplified registration procedure).

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