Tax-Free Textbooks Not in Near Future For Students
College students understand that feeling in the pit of their stomach when it comes time to buy textbooks. Some ASG members found out that there will not be relief from Little Rock to ease the pain.
Last week, ASG’s State Student Advocacy committee traveled to Little Rock to meet some members of state government to discuss the idea of making students’ textbooks tax-free. The group met with Gov. Mike Beebe, Shane Broadway, interim director for the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and Rep. Kelley Linck, vice chair of the Revenue and Tax committee, Cox said.
“It turns out that the issues are much more intricate than I think a lot of students originally thought,” said Kaleb Cox, director of State Student Advocacy committee.
The committee was told that tax-free textbooks is a bad idea for two reasons: in the long run, it would only hurt students and the timing is bad, Cox said.
The committee estimated that tax-free textbooks would have resulted in about $12 million in lost revenue in 2009-2010 and with most tax money going to education and Medicaid, students would be the ones feeling the repercussions of this crunch, Cox said.
“It really wouldn’t be productive for us to pursue this measure unless we could offset those [loss of revenue] through a raise in tax in another area, which would be extremely difficult to do,” he said
At this time, the state government is updating the tax code and working to get rid of tax exemptions.
“Currently there are over 120 exemptions built into the tax code, and so the culture in the capital is that they are trying to get away with as many of those as we can in order to increase revenue to the state,” Cox said.
Students in Fayetteville pay a 9.25 percent sales and use tax. This tax includes the 6 percent state tax, 2 percent city tax and 1.25 county tax, according to the Washington County Website.
Tax exemptions for textbooks is not a new idea.
Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia all offer tax exceptions for text books, according to the National Association of College Stores.
In the past, Rep. Roebuck tried to issue a tax exemption on used textbooks for students in Arkansas, but found opposition and the bill did not make it through committee, Cox said.
Textbooks at the UA are not only expensive in general but also expensive compared to schools around the country.
The national average cost of textbooks is $1,168 and the average textbook costs at the UA for fall 2011 were $1,214, according to College Board.
Operations have to change at the university level to offer cheaper textbooks to students, said Cox.
This includes professors and department officials looking for cheaper books or using older version of textbook to reduce student costs.