Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Repeal Ontario's Tax on Reading!

With the HST tax grab that came into effect on July 1st, one thing that was to remain unchanged was that books would remain free from provincial sales tax (the federal government has been taxing reading for years with the GST).

That hasn't happened. While paper books remain tax-exempt, e-books, which are the future of reading and the publishing industry, are now taxed 13% HST instead of only 5% GST.

There is a detailed HST Info Sheet on the taxing of books here; in the fine print it specifies that:

"For purposes of the rebate, the term 'printed book' has its ordinary meaning. Therefore, electronic and digital books will not qualify as printed books for purposes of the rebate."

Amazon recently announced that it sells more e-books than hardcovers.

What the Ontario government has done is to sneakily break their promise not to tax books, and they've done it by taxing the future of reading. They figure that by the time book-buyers clue into the paper vs. e-book tax discrepancy, that they'll have forgotten that this is a new tax, and one which McGuinty promised us we wouldn't have to pay.

In fact, current Ontario government HST propaganda specifies that:

"Other products will be eligible for a point-of-sale rebate for the provincial part of the HST. This means you will only pay the 5 per cent federal portion of the HST. These include print newspapers, books (including audio books),".

That seems pretty clear, doesn't it? But apparently an e-book isn't a book. McGuinty has made a big deal about how the HST is good for business, but with this new tax on books, he's struck a blow to the publishing industry. He's made the fastest growing segment in publishing 8% more expensive. Is that good for business? Is it good for Ontario? I don't think so.

Putting a tax on reading is poor public policy. It raises the cost of education for students of all ages. Books are the primary form by which we transmit knowledge in our society, and the foundation on which our knowledge-based economy is built. For all the good reasons we didn't tax reading before July 1st, we shouldn't begin to tax it afterward. Making a distinction between books and e-books is disingenuous at best, intentionally deceptive at worst.

What can you do? Write a message to Premier Dalton McGuinty, and then write one to your local MPP, too. (If you're really ambitious, ask Prime Minister Stephen Harper to drop the GST tax on reading, too!)

You can also join the Repeal Ontario's Tax on Reading Facebook group, and visit If you really want to make a difference, vote NDP in the next election...

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