Nfld. & Labrador

MUN eligible for federal rebates on book tax, but students aren't

Public institutions are eligible for a rebate of the provincial taxes on books, Minister Cathy Bennett said in a statement on Tuesday.

Three provinces offer 100 per cent book tax rebate for public institutions

Finance Minister Cathy Bennett said Memorial University can take advantage of federal rebates. Those rebates do not apply to students, however.

Removing the provincial rebate on book taxes was an unfortunate step to knocking down the deficit, says Finance Minister Cathy Bennett, but rebates do apply for institutions like Memorial University.

"As part of measures to increase revenue, the HST rebate on books was eliminated, including text books for post-secondary students in Newfoundland and Labrador resulting in estimated savings of approximately $2.1 million," she said in a statement. 

Bennett pointed to the federal book rebate as a means for public sector institutions, like Memorial University, to get back some of the money lost to the 15 per cent HST on books.

Not mentioned in Bennett's statement, however, is that rebates are of no help to students.

Luanne Kelly, manager of the Memorial University book store, said the rebate only applies to internal purchases — like a professor needing a copy of a book for instruction — and not the sale of books at the university.

The Memorial University students' union raised concerns this week about the province's additional 10 per cent tax on textbooks. A semester of books for a first-year psychology student rang through at $860.84, more than $112 in taxes. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Under the Excise Tax Act, Section 259, three provinces are eligible for full tax rebates on books for public sector institutions.

Newfoundland and Labrador is one of those provinces, and Memorial University is a qualifying institution.

The book store sought advice from the province before the book tax came into effect, Kelly said, and received verbal confirmation the rebate did not apply to books being sold in-store.

A follow up message from Bennett's office to CBC confirmed the rebate does not apply to students.

The Memorial University Students' Union raised concerns this week about the impact of the tax on textbooks.

Many students spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks each semester, even before the new 10 per cent provincial tax was factored in.


Ryan Cooke is a multiplatform journalist with CBC News in St. John's. His work often takes a deeper look at social issues and the human impact of public policy. Originally from rural Newfoundland, he attended the University of Prince Edward Island and worked for newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada before joining CBC in 2016. He can be reached at