To Tax Or Not To Tax Textbooks? That Is The Question

Collegiate students from all over the state of Kansas converged late last month in Topeka, lobbying in part for what would become House Bill 2557, creating a rebate on taxes paid on textbook sales in the state, among them was a delegation from Fort Hays State University.

“Basically this bill is to provide students a tax rebate when students purchase their textbooks at any bookstore,” said FHSU Student Government Association President Chris Roberts. “This rebate also not only applies to Fort Hays State University but it also applies to other areas such as vo-techs, community college, and private institutes.

When asked about the timeline of the bill, Roberts said, even though it passed through the House of Representatives, it still has to go through the Senate and that the timeline of the getting the billed passed into law is still unknown.

Roberts feels it is clear that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback fully supports higher education and feels that higher education is essential for the Kansas economy, overall Roberts is confident that the bill will pass the Senate and sent to Governor Brownback to sign into law.

Currently Kansas has a state sales tax rate of 6.15 percent. Roberts said this is similar to nearby states, Colorado has a sales tax of about 7.00 percent, Oklahoma has a tax rate of around 6.00 percent.

The bill would be expected to reduce state funding by approximately $500,000 annually but would bring only an additional $156,700 in revenue.

Kansas in not the only state to propose a textbook tax rebate bill. “States such as California, Connecticut, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia,” according to a recent story on Fox News. All have passed their own version of the textbook tax laws in each of their states within the past year.

Despite these state passing these law is unknown if other states such as Colorado, North and South Dakota and others will join the mentioned states due to different reason.

Maryland, as an example, is hesitant on passing a textbook tax bill due to concerns with budget issues and appear to see the tax break as taking the $7.5 million away from the state’s general fund in fiscal 2015 and $9 million away by fiscal 2019.

That’s on top of lost revenue resulting from an estimated 25 to 40 percent of textbooks being purchased in ways that are not subjected to sales tax, such as through online retailer Amazon.

Across the United States, 65 percent of students don’t buy their textbooks because of the price, according to a recent report released by Maryland Public Interest Research Group.

The result of the high price and taxation is that more students are buying their text book online retailers such as Amazon and Textbook.com in order to save money without having to pay the higher prices from traditional book sellers.

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