Jobs campaign: Tax on books is a tax on learning, knowledge and literacy
Makashule Gana , DAYouth Leader
6 September 2012
Today I led a group of DA Youth activists to the Treasury where we handed over a memorandum to representatives of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to request him to implement a zero rating of VAT on books.
In 2010 the DA Youth handed over a memorandum to this effect to the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, who responded favorably at the time. However, two years later we still see no movement on this proposal.
With unemployment now reaching crisis proportions, the Government should take every step in its power to break down the barriers to education, as skills development is one of the key ways in which individuals can become active and competitive in the economy. The DA Youth is lobbying for the VAT on books to be zero-rated as we believe that a tax on books is a tax on learning, knowledge and literacy.
Were books to be zero-rated, a library making a purchase order of 3,000 new books could purchase roughly 400 additional books. Removing VAT on books would thus have significant, positive knock-on effects for those South Africans relying on libraries as a source of books.
Because of the regressive nature of VAT as a tax, removing VAT on any item also acts disproportionately to benefit low-income citizens. This is why VAT is zero-rated on many basic foodstuffs in South Africa. For precisely the same reason, removing VAT on books would have a particularly powerful impact on access to books for poorer South Africans.
The DA Youth feel that steps ought to be taken right away to zero-rate VAT on all books and that a zero rating should in future be extended to all newspapers and magazines. We believe that the costs that would be incurred by the fiscus as a result of this proposal are insignificant in comparison to the boost to literacy and economic activity that would result.
Education and the promotion of literacy are powerful weapons in the fight to eradicate poverty. Information and the exchange of ideas is not only a basic requirement for democracy to flourish, it also opens the door to economic participation.
We need to understand that, for the same pro-development, pro-poor reasons that bread, milk and vegetables are zero-rated, we need to zero-rate basic learning material too.
South Africans crave access to opportunity and government must provide these opportunities. It can do this by making information more affordable, and therefore more available, to more people. Evidence strongly supports the view that a lower tax on books will do this.