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Friday, July 8, 2016

Ban The Book Tax

The local, state, and federal governments are in a desperate money-grab mode.  Even New Jersey, the lowest gas-tax state is getting in on the action of raising taxes, increasing permit fees, and charging for things that used to be done for free.  NJ was seriously contemplating jacking its gas tax by 23 cents a gallon in exchange for lowering its sales tax by a percentage point.  All of this talk of taxes made me realize that we need to ban a particular tax – the one on books.

Taxes are issued to raise money for things like police, firemen, schools, road repair, parks, etc. and no one can dispute the need for taxes.  The debate is usually over how much tax is too much and which specific services, products, or events should be taxed.  There’s been a trend to tax things that society deems bad for us – sin taxes – where items like alcohol, cigarettes, sugar drinks, and gas are taxed heavily.

Some say it’s just an excuse to tax people but others believe the tax changes one’s behavior when their bad habit becomes too expensive to keep up.  If we see taxation as a means of punishment/prevention, then why do we tax things that are helpful to us, such as books?  Why should we penalize someone’s pursuit of knowledge?  Books play an essential role in the development and expansion of society, so how dare we tax those with a thirst for knowledge?

In states like New York we don’t tax a newspaper or magazine, so why do we single out books to be taxed?

I have no idea how much tax revenue would be lost as a result of my suggestion to eliminate the book tax, but I’d guess it would run to a billion or two billion dollars, based on a 7% sales tax of perhaps 30 billion spent annually on book sales (this includes used, new, text, ebooks, and audiobooks at all types of stores, venues, sites).  If that revenue needs to be replaced, that’s fine.  Add a tax to something we already pay, such as the tax on garbage bags, but don’t link taxation with the consumption of books.

The book industry may even see a slight increase in book sales as a result of consumers saving whatever the sales tax would be.  Stores would no longer be charged with collecting the tax and dealing with it.  Readers would have one less barrier to enjoying books.  It’s a win all around.

On the other hand, we need to raise more funds for literacy programs, educational initiatives, libraries, and cultural institutions that are linked to books.  Could we remove the tax but institute a volunteer program for book retailers to collect donations at the cash register for programs that benefit local or national organizations that seek to promote reading and literacy?

Balancing the books is not easy when it comes to government and non-profit revenue, but as a moral issue, and a practical one, I don’t believe a tax on what we read is appropriate.  It’s almost like a poll tax, where people couldn’t vote unless they paid a fee.  While, the democratic right to vote can never be compromised, the freedom to read books should also never be impeded by government fees.

Ban the book tax!

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016


  1. I remember a few years ago when the states were fighting the online book stores because the 'brick and mortar' stores were losing money because they were not getting the sales because the online sites did NOT charge sales tax on the purchases people made. As I remember, it got to be a heated issue. But the states held their line and some of the sites now have to charge sales tax on items sold. When we have our taxes prepared, the preparer always asks if we purchased anything online; the IRS and the state still expect us to pay that sales and user tax anyway.

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