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HST on books to start Sunday

Author Lisa Moore speaks during a news conference in April at the Broken Books bookstore in downtown St. John’s, where local book publishers voiced concerns about the Liberal government’s plan to tax books.
Author Lisa Moore speaks during a news conference in April at the Broken Books bookstore in downtown St. John’s, where local book publishers voiced concerns about the Liberal government’s plan to tax books.

A tax local publishers and writers have said could “crack the spine of literacy” in this province will be implemented as planned on Sunday, despite efforts since last spring to reverse it.

In last spring’s budget, the provincial government announced it would apply the HST — which it increased from 13 per cent to 15 per cent — to the sale of books, which are currently subject only to five per cent GST (HST is already applied to e-book sales). Newfoundland and Labrador will be the only province to charge HST on books.

Public-sector bodies eligible for the federal GST rebate on books, such as universities and school boards, will be eligible for a rebate on the provincial portion.

When the announcement of the book tax was made, local writers and publishers came together to protest it, holding a news conference where they called on the province to reverse the decision. They called for a meeting with Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development Minister Christopher Mitchelmore (whose department funds the Publishers Assistance Program), which they were granted shortly afterward.

“The minister listened to our concerns, and has had several conversations with some of the local publishers in other settings since then, but it was made clear to us from the very beginning that the decision would not be reversed, and the tax would happen as announced,” says Donna Francis, publisher at Creative Book Publishing.

Whether or not the government understands the potential impact of the book tax is debatable, Francis said.

“I have to believe that if they did, the decision would be reversed. In the days following our press conference, we had a lot of vocal and written support for our position from the public, from authors, from various arts organizations and from our colleagues across Canada.”

Francis said local publishers understand the fiscal position of the province and that some difficult decisions had to be made, and they are appreciative of the fact that their funding program was not affected.

However, she said the fact remains that most of the publishing companies’ revenues come from the local market, which will no doubt be affected by the extra 10 per cent tax on books. A decline in publishing revenues will translate into fewer authors and books being published, Francis said, adding that 80 per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador authors are published in the province.

“Also, anything that would make it more difficult for people to buy books should not be considered,” she said. “It’s been said many times: books are not luxury items, and should not be taxed as such. Being the only province in Canada to tax books is not a distinction we want to have.”

 

tbradbury@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

In last spring’s budget, the provincial government announced it would apply the HST — which it increased from 13 per cent to 15 per cent — to the sale of books, which are currently subject only to five per cent GST (HST is already applied to e-book sales). Newfoundland and Labrador will be the only province to charge HST on books.

Public-sector bodies eligible for the federal GST rebate on books, such as universities and school boards, will be eligible for a rebate on the provincial portion.

When the announcement of the book tax was made, local writers and publishers came together to protest it, holding a news conference where they called on the province to reverse the decision. They called for a meeting with Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development Minister Christopher Mitchelmore (whose department funds the Publishers Assistance Program), which they were granted shortly afterward.

“The minister listened to our concerns, and has had several conversations with some of the local publishers in other settings since then, but it was made clear to us from the very beginning that the decision would not be reversed, and the tax would happen as announced,” says Donna Francis, publisher at Creative Book Publishing.

Whether or not the government understands the potential impact of the book tax is debatable, Francis said.

“I have to believe that if they did, the decision would be reversed. In the days following our press conference, we had a lot of vocal and written support for our position from the public, from authors, from various arts organizations and from our colleagues across Canada.”

Francis said local publishers understand the fiscal position of the province and that some difficult decisions had to be made, and they are appreciative of the fact that their funding program was not affected.

However, she said the fact remains that most of the publishing companies’ revenues come from the local market, which will no doubt be affected by the extra 10 per cent tax on books. A decline in publishing revenues will translate into fewer authors and books being published, Francis said, adding that 80 per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador authors are published in the province.

“Also, anything that would make it more difficult for people to buy books should not be considered,” she said. “It’s been said many times: books are not luxury items, and should not be taxed as such. Being the only province in Canada to tax books is not a distinction we want to have.”

 

tbradbury@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

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