Access to education is a burning issue in South Africa, and although affordability of fees is a primary issue for many disadvantaged students, their struggles don't stop there, as they still need to incur the costs of textbooks and living expenses. As a result many financially strapped students drop out of tertiary studies or give up hope of furthering their education. Van Schaik Bookstore believes that students need more support and Government needs to take action, and is calling for the abolition of VAT on books.
Nearly every student, studying at any level of education, requires some sort of textbook for use in their studies. With students all around the country, having recently returned to their places of study, will be reaching deep into their pockets to fork out the large sums of money required for fees and textbooks. Many people who could not afford the fees and books that are required will not return to studying this year, or may not begin studying at all.
The continued taxation on literature is a direct taxation on the knowledge of our people. Reading a book, becoming a literate South African, can open up so many opportunities and improved education levels stimulate the economy.
We experience the financial plight of students every year when they come in to buy their textbooks â€“ Books are expensive to publish, and as much as they are an investment in your career, they are costly to buy. We do everything we can to provide the best range of stock at a fair price and discount where we can, but taking VAT off books would effectively put much needed money back into students' pockets.
If less tax was charged on books, more people, both rich and poor, would be able to afford them; more people would be able to read, to learn and to further their education.
Higher levels of education are what the Government is striving for, and as such invest billions of Rand annually in education. Some of this money is used to purchase books for school and tertiary students. For every free text book Government funds, it receives 14% back in the form of VAT. If the sale of these books was VAT free, it would mean that 14% more funds would become available for book and resource material purchases. Abolishment of VAT on textbooks is therefore a direct way to increase funding for Education.
Yet, the concept of VAT exemption on books is not unique. Other countries that have freed books from tax include Poland, Russia, Ireland, Norway, Ghana, Uganda and Kenya.
Van Schaik is calling on students and interested people to add their voices to the call to exempt VAT from textbooks. Visit the Van Schaik "Abolish VAT on books" discussion Fan Page on Facebook, to join the debate or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your views.