Booksellers say HST is 'nail in the coffin'

Booksellers in the province are raising concerns the new harmonized sales tax will make it even harder for their businesses to compete with online retailers.

HST could be rebated on books, says Sheridan

P.E.I. Finance Minister Wes Sheridan addresses a slide explaining the coming of the HST to the province. (Brendan Elliott/CBC)

Booksellers in the province are raising concerns the new harmonized sales tax will make it even harder for their businesses to compete with online retailers.

Lori Cheverie, manager of Bookmark, says the HST would have a devastating effect on bookstores. 

"That means we're the only place in Canada that has to charge that extra nine per cent," she said. "The other six provinces offer the point-of-sale rebate of the provincial portion. While we're already fighting online shopping and off-Island shopping it's just going to put another nail in the coffin." 

Right now customers pay a five per cent tax on books.

Books are high on the list of possible rebates for the HST when it is introduced to P.E.I. in April, says Finance Minister Wes Sheridan.

As plans currently stand, the sales tax on books will go up from five per cent to 14 per cent. Speaking before a government information meeting on the HST in Tignish Wednesday night, O'Leary bookseller Corinne Peters told Sheridan raising the tax on books would mean the end of her business and others.

"Every other place that has implemented the HST has rebated the provincial portion back, and P.E.I.'s not talking of that," said Peters.

"You have effectively put all of us booksellers on P.E.I. out of business if you do not do that."

Sheridan said there is room to "tweak" some aspects of the HST, and he'll talk to his cabinet colleagues about excluding books.

"I can tell you that it is at the top of our laundry list that we're taking to cabinet," he said.

"What people talk about an awful lot is the literacy, and how we're trying to maintain that. So it is tough to be in that business and we're looking at all ways in which we can make it fair."

Kate VanGerven , president of the UPEI Student Union, said students pay enough for textbooks without the added burden of HST.

"The problem is, when the total cost of your textbooks a semester is reaching into the $500, $600, $700 region — that's more than a course itself so that's a problem," VanGerven said.

Booksellers, publishers and student unions are meeting with Sheridan next Wednesday to discuss the impact the HST will have on their industry.

About two dozen people attended the information session in Tignish, the last of a series of information meetings hosted by Sheridan.

For mobile device users: Should provincial portion of HST be rebated on books?