If, like me, you've been away for the summer, and have recently arrived back in Spain, you may be somewhat alarmed by the rise in IVA, effective as of last Saturday, 1 September. IVA is Impuesto sobre el Valor Añadido, and applies to virtually all goods and services, except health and educational. The system of what goods and services are in which category is complicated - what tax isn't? - but I've tried to offer some pointers here. There are three types of IVA: general, which used to be 18%, now 21%; reducido (up from 8% to 10%) - some foods, transport and new houses; and superreducido (stays at 4%)- basic foods (bread, milk, eggs, fruit, veg), books and magazines. For some goods and services, such as phone, gas and electricity, it has risen from 18% to 21%, while for others, from 8% to 21% (reducido rate to general). This is the case with cinemas, theatre and attractions tickets; gym memberships; hairdressers; funeral services; some urban spa and dental treatments; nightclubs; sports classes and equipment rental. The items in the reducido (now 10%) category whose price increase you may notice are: bottled water; prescription spectacles; some medicines; ladies' sanitary items; non-distilled alcohol (ie wine and beer); transport fees for passengers and luggage; some hostelry services, such as, camping and spas; exhibitions and trade fairs entrance; meat and fish. But the really shocking rise is the goods which have shot up from superreducido - 4% - to general - 21%. Yes, that's not a typo. My maths is not great, but I'm correct on this one. An increase of 17% tax. These are school materials: diaries, calendars, crafts notebooks, compasses, coloured paper, clay, modelling dough, crayons, paints, watercolours, spiral notebooks, and rucksacks for children and youths. Text books stay at 4%, thank god. Which means that a 4 euro notebook's tax was 0.16 euros, but is now 0.84 euro. Guess what my main outlay has been recently? School materials for my son - with perfect timing, I arrived back on 31 August. I have a list of over 25 such items to buy for little alumno who is starting his first year of Primaria (six years old). His materiales include two types of glue, 500 pieces of A4 paper and boxes of crayons, coloured pencils and felt-tip pens, as well as five different types of folder and 10 packs of tissues. They'd better produce some damn fine artwork at the end of it, is all I can say. Thankfully I have some of the listus maximus items at home on my stationery shelf, and others I bought in Tesco in a rare fit of forward-thinking and organisation - I didn't have the list on me, as we were never given a piece of paper (cutbacks), but did have a photo of it on my trusty mobile phone. So my son's mega-pack with which he will, naturally, produce the complete works of Cervantes, Picasso and Juan Gris, will be a mish-mash of Spanish and English; old, new, and used-a-bit-by-mum.