Legislature passes tax-free bill on textbooks

The House Colleges and University Committee unanimously passed a bill March 21 that could exempt college students from paying sales tax on textbooks effective July 1.

“Sales tax is not a tremendous burden on students but everything adds up,” said Bill Edmonds, director of communication for the Board of Governors. It is estimated that students could save approximately $46 each semester on books based on reports from the National Association of College Stores.

Angela Williams, store manager of the Florida A&M University bookstore, thinks the tax-cut is a great idea. “Everything else is so expensive,” Williams said. And, Williams added, the bill might even give students an incentive to buy their books earlier.

Some students think the tax-free bill (HB 15) would be beneficial to all students; not just those who need financial aid.

Scarlett Williams, 19, a freshmen business administration student from Jacksonville, said it’s very important for students to get financial help.

“Everyone needs help,” Scarlett Williams said. “Students will stop complaining and teachers will have students with books.”

Some students can’t afford to purchase all the required textbooks and are forced to share or photocopy the material. “It’s all about savings,” said Ihesha O’Neil, 22, a senior criminal justice student from Deerfield Beach. “Students don’t have that much money and saving is good because books are so expensive.”

O’Neil said that the money saved from tax exemptions could help take care of other expenses around home and school. “If you see a price and know sales tax is coming, you get afraid to buy the book,” O’Neil said.

There are students who say the money they save from a semester’s worth of books won’t be misused. Wilshard McKenzie, 19, a freshmen computer information systems student from Jacksonville, said the extra dollars you can save from sales tax on textbooks could be turned into grocery money. McKenzie said people could benefit because “it makes overall tuition cheaper” when considering books as part of the total expense for college.

As of Friday, Tallahassee representatives had not reviewed the tax-free bill to see if the city would uphold the exemption, but Edmonds thinks the bill has a chance in Tallahassee if it will help college students financially.

Although, students are excited to hear about a tax break in their favor, some are worried that implementation of the bill is all talk and no action.

“The tax-cut is a great idea, but I hope it’s not lip service,” Scarlett Williams said. She also said the bill would assist out-of-state students considerably because their tuition is more expensive.

There are 18 states across the nation that have tax exemptions on books for higher education. The Florida bill proposes that both part-time and full-time students with valid student identification are eligible to purchase required and recommended textbooks free of sales tax.

McKenzie said he does not think a bill for tax-free textbooks will result in better academic performance. Instead, he thinks it will relieve some of the financial obligations and enable students to focus more on their education.

He said that, with a little financial help, “you might see more students come to college.”

Contact Haley McCabe at famuannews@hotmail.com