Charging sales tax on ebooks could be really good for libraries

by Public Libraries on July 27, 2012

Taxes

Get ready for prices to go up on everything you buy online.  The Wall Street Journal recently reported that tax breaks for online shoppers might be nearing their end.  Internet sales and digital goods might soon be subject to sales tax just like physical goods and physical store sales.  This means that customers would be charged sales tax when they purchase an ebook.  This could be good news for libraries.

The increase in the price of ebooks will create a higher incentive for people to consider borrowing a book for free from a library.  Paying 10 percent more for an ebook might not sound like much but it will definitely cause people to change their behavior.  When gas prices go up 10 percent a lot fewer people drive and a lot more people buy hybrids and fuel efficient cars.  Ebook sales would definitely be impacted if sales tax is charged on ebooks.

All the people that would have normally bought an ebook would look to other sources to try and fill their desire for a good read.  An obvious source would be their local library.  People will be more willing to try borrowing an ebook or a print book from a library if they have to pay sales tax on ebooks.

Another benefit for libraries will be the additional tax revenue.  States have been facing massive budgeting problems due to the drastic declines in tax revenues as a result of the economic slowdown.  Most have had to cut spending to balance their budgets and many have cut library budgets as part of their austerity measures.  Charging sales tax on digital content and Internet sales would be an additional source of income for states and might result in some restored library budgets.

Usually no one is happy about prices going up, but in this case libraries could have some things to cheer about.  Giving states additional tax revenue and providing added incentive for people to use a library are two reasons why libraries could really benefit from sales tax on ebooks.

{ 3 comments }

K Jordan August 2, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Less for adjectives and fewer for nouns please. Fewer people drive…….

Public Libraries August 2, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Thanks for noticing the error. Writing about libraries can be challenging since all your readers have good grammar.

CC August 4, 2012 at 8:53 am

This will depend on where one lives. Some states (Louisiana, for one) already have enacted laws that require residents to report online or other purchases made out-of-state which do not already include state sales tax at the time of purchase when filing state income tax returns. Adjustments to one’s return are made accordingly. Many merchants who have brick & mortar locations in states typically include sales taxes at the time of an online purchase.

Also, your analogy regarding increases in the price of gas is flawed regarding hybrids. Hybrids are typically much more expensive to buy and owners usually don’t realize real savings for several years. There may be the initial savings in fuel costs, but it it often results in a new or higher car note, increased insurance premiums, etc., thereby increasing one’s net expenses.

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