MUN students say new N.L. book tax hitting them hard

Students are peeved with the province over its new 10 per cent tax on reading material as they hit the book store to buy already expensive textbooks.

One semester of science books nets $112 in taxes

Kristen Lo, top left, was upset at the additional 10 per cent tax added on to her newest textbook. Brittany Lennox, with MUNSU, said the tax unfairly affects students. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Kristen Lo carried her new statistics textbook to the counter with a white-knuckled grip, prepared to pay the new 10 per cent provincial book tax on top of the $90 retail price.

Like many of her friends, she avoids the Memorial University book store at all costs.

Unable to find any alternative to buying the textbook with its accompanying online access code, Lo said she was forced to dish out full price this time.

"This is going to be my first purchase, my most regrettable purchase," she said. "And then I come to find out the HST has gone up by, I think, 10 per cent."

Kristen Lo, a student at Memorial University, was peeved to have to pay an additional 10 per cent tax on a new textbook on Friday. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The new book tax also has the university's students' union taking a stand.

Brittany Lennox, communications director for the union, walked around the bookstore and collected the required reading for a first year bachelor of science in psychology student taking the recommended courses for second semester, which started this month.

Each book came with a hefty price tag — $143.95 for psychology, $199.95 each for physics and biology — before taxes.

After the 10 per cent provincial and five per cent federal taxes were added, the total rang through at $864.80. The taxes accounted for $112.29.

"That's a lot of money," Lennox said. "And that's a huge shock for students who may not be expecting it."

Students 'least capable' of paying extra tax: union

According to the Canadian Federation of Students, an undergraduate student pays between $500-1000 per semester in textbooks, with textbook costs rising 2.44 times the rate of inflation since 2008.

The union believes the new tax unfairly targets students.

"If you look at the largest group of people buying books in the country, it's students," Lennox said. "And students are the least capable of paying for this tax."

Brittany Lennox, a representative with MUN's students' union, said the tax hurts students who are already strapped for cash. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The tax, which came into effect on Jan. 1, has also been decried by readers, authors and book store owners.

On top of the new 10 per cent levy on books, the Newfoundland and Labrador government repealed the rebate it formerly applied to the five per cent federal tax on some books. The rebate did not apply to university textbooks.

For a student like Lo, the tax is annoying. For someone who has no choice but to buy from the book store, it can be much worse, she said.

"If I'm saving up for it, it's affordable for me," she said. "But for other students, it might not be such a great thing."

The retail price for textbooks is regularly above $100, before taxes. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)


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