Nfld. & Labrador

Book tax annoying for readers, 'crushing' for independent store owner

The increased tax on books bought in Newfoundland and Labrador drew mostly resignation from shoppers at a St. John's Chapters on Tuesday, but one book seller fears it could cost him his business.

Additional 15 per cent tax began Jan. 1

Shoppers at Chapters Bookstore in St. John's say they don't like the book tax, but will still buy. However, one store owner is worried. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

The owner of an independent book store in St. John's says the province's new 10 per cent tax on books could cost him his business.

"It's going to be a crushing effect," said Matt Howse, who operates Broken Books on Duckworth Street in the city's downtown.

Howse said his sales have averaged $80,000 a year since he opened in 2014, but his rent has gone up 10 per cent because of fee hikes at the city level and that's already eating into profits.

As of Jan.1 he and other bookstores have to charge customers a 10 per cent provincial sales tax, plus a five per cent federal GST which had previously been rebated.

Matt Howse, centre, joined other publishers and authors for a protest in April, 2016, when the tax on books was announced. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

"We are into an economic downturn. I'd almost call it a recession," Howse told CBC Radio's On the Go, so he expects sales, and his 2016 salary of $6,600 to slip.

"Not only will I not pay myself at all, but I will probably bounce my rent cheque a couple of times, and you can't operate a business under those circumstances," he said.

While the store has expanded its inventory to about 900 titles since it opened, he predicts it will be a struggle to survive another year.

Readers gotta read

Book buyers, meanwhile, are less pessimistic.

"It's definitely a shame … I buy a lot of books but this doesn't stop me from reading," said Jesse Mullett, who was shopping at Chapters bookstore on Kenmount Road on Tuesday.

"No, that's probably not going to stop me," said Linda Ross, another book lover. "If you have a favourite thing in life, you just make other kinds of changes so that you can continue to enjoy what you do enjoy."

Walter Compden bought two new books on Tuesday and says the tax on books won't stop him from his purchases. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Walter Combden, who left with two books under his arm, said, "it's probably not a great idea, but I guess it's like all taxes. We'll have to learn to live with it. " 

"I like to read, so I'm going to buy them anyway," said Wayne Butt, who joked he will "go for the bargains."

Others said they weren't even aware the book tax had kicked in.

With files from Alyson Samson and On the Go