The Texas Legislature is currently debating a bill that would remove taxes on textbooks. While businesses receive generous tax exemptions, it is still controversial for students to receive the same benefits.
State Sen. Judith Zaffrini’s SB 48 proposes a 10-day period of tax-exempt textbooks at the beginning of each semester at approved campus bookstores. If the bill passes, students would be eligible for the exemption beginning in the fall 2017 semester. Three other House bills, HB 242, HB 170 and HB 350, also propose eliminating taxes on textbook purchases. Similar bills were proposed in the 2015 legislative session but did not pass.
While this bill will only reduce annual college expenses by about $100, it should be regarded as one of many necessary steps towards reducing the cost of college attendance. Small cuts such as these will eventually add up and bring down the cost of college tuition for all. Though the bill in and of itself will not change the fact that the cost of college tuition in Texas has doubled since 2003, it is a step toward reversing this trend.
College textbooks are already tax-exempt in some form in most states, according to the National Association of College Stores. Additionally, businesses also already receive tax exemptions on their investments, such as purchases of capital goods, employees’ salaries and rent on office space. With so many corporate loopholes and tax breaks for businesses, it only seems fair that students also get a break on textbook taxes. After all, students need the break more than billionaires like President Donald Trump, who has bragged about paying no taxes annually. Textbooks are a critical investment in human capital that bolsters our state economy by providing a more educated and capable workforce.
Tax-exempt textbooks could also bring more business to local textbook companies. While many students opt to purchase their textbooks through websites such as Amazon to save money, removing taxes on textbooks would provide an incentive for students to purchase textbooks at local retailers and bring income back to local businesses.
Realistically, $100 a year isn’t that much money and does not address many other issues that keep college costs high. But, with students leaving college with so much debt, we should start looking into small reductions like this wherever possible to drop the overall cost of college. If state legislators can start finding small ways to lower the expense of college, such as removing taxes on textbooks or imposing rent controls in West Campus, then perhaps our state can move closer to providing affordable education for all.
Griffin is a government and Plan II junior from Dallas. Follow her on Twitter @oglikesdogs.