NL’s Book Tax Lacks Logic and Will Do More Harm than Good

Some budgetary decisions are about the bottom line – tough calls are made in tough times – but this book tax lacks logic, and simply won’t generate enough money to justify the damage it does.

By now you’ve probably heard that we’re slated to be the only province in Canada to tax books – how’s that for blind austerity?

Firstly, it’s a no-brainer that a province marked by the lowest literacy rate in the country should not be the province placing a monetary barrier between books and the financially strapped. Yet here we are, closing free libraries and taxing books.

All the while, our finance minister claims the budget doesn’t hurt lower-income families more.

We also have a disproportionate number of local authors and publishing companies, which means the book industry is one the government should be fostering, not harming, by giving people another reason to watch the movie instead. Netflix is $7.99 a month, less than the tax on the 2 thirty-dollar hardcovers I read a month.

Last night I saw a Tweet. “I’m done with buying books now thanks to #Budget2016, I’ll just pirate whatever I wanna read now.” And it goes without saying, the NL Book Tax will only encourage people to shop online and avoid the NL-only book tax. Way to kick all our book vendors in the teeth.

Local book sales are critical for local authors, especially ones published locally, since the bulk of their book sales tend to be local. With this tax, fewer book sales will mean, well, fewer book sales, which doesn’t help you get your name out there, nor does it make you look appealing to a publisher when you try and place your next manuscript.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, but this book tax will do more harm than good – the amount of money it’ll make for our province is negligible compared to the harm it’ll do to an industry.

It’s almost like a joke: after jacking up all conceivable taxes – like income taxes, HST, gas taxes, etc – Bennett & Ball simply started inventing new taxes. And historically, inventing a specific new tax out of nowhere doesn’t work so well.

When Denmark had their heart in the right place and introduced a Sugar Tax to combat health issues (the price of a junk food went up per kilogram of saturated fat), people started shopping elsewhere for sugar-based foods, the way locals will now start buying their books online instead. Or just stop reading.

In fact, the Huffington Post claims “the number of Danes shopping in Germany jumped by 50%.” When we all start shopping online for books now, the government won’t get increased revenue from book taxes because 10% of nothing is zero, and our local book industry loses a lot of sales. Sounds like a poorly conceived tax, and it is.

Some budgetary decisions are about the bottom line – tough calls are made in tough times – but this book tax lacks logic, and simply won’t generate enough money to justify the damage it does.

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3 Comments

  • Has a single journalist asked Bennett about this tax, where it came from, the logic behind it etc? I have seen no direct defense of this ridiculous tax. Maybe it is one of those things the government puts in the budget only to cancel later, making the budget seem not so bad after all. In any case it’s an embarrassment to this province.

    • They will probably cut this, and the levy, and then claim to have “met in the middle” with the people of the province and fiscal responsibility.

  • Good insight on crappy outcomes. I bet there’s a correlation between literacy and vibrant, diverse economies.

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