• Legislature should pass textbook sales tax exemption bill

    University Co-op employee Cameron Ingram sorts through and labels used textbooks in the store’s basement Saturday morning. Some natural sciences professors are requiring online teaching materials instead of the traditional textbook.
    University Co-op employee Cameron Ingram sorts through and labels used textbooks in the store’s basement Saturday morning. Some natural sciences professors are requiring online teaching materials instead of the traditional textbook.

    A textbook. An online workbook to go with it. Another online subscription. Two more books and an iClicker. The cost of course materials adds up exponentially, it seems, and there really aren't alternative options if you want legal, physical books. E-books are often cheaper but not by much. Price tags only provide the base item price, not the sales tax, resulting in surprises at the cash register.  

    As the Texan reports in Monday's paper, several bills are on the floor of the Texas Senate and House of Representatives that, if passed, would result in a sales tax exemption for students purchasing textbooks. Each separate bill defines its own window of when the exemption would be in effect. Some say the month before school starts and another suggests that there be no window, meaning textbooks would always be exempt for students. 

    It is interesting to note that textbook stores like the Co-op are supportive of a tax exemption. Michael Kiely, course material director for the Co-op, said the store wants what is best for the consumers. 

    With sales tax in Austin currently at 8.25 percent, a $400 textbook purchase comes to $433. That extra $33 would of course not be charged if any of the bills pass. That might not seem like that big a difference when comparing quantity; after all, you're still paying $400 for books. But that $33 saved can go toward groceries, tuition, etc. The cost of living in Austin is pretty high, so any break we as students can get is welcome. 

    Similar bills have failed to pass in past legislative sessions, but with a bipartisan network of supporters, I wouldn't be surprised if one passed this time around. Legislators looking out for our wallets and financial well-being is a nice contrast to the politician stereotype we typically cast. With the textbook stores behind them as well, I certainly hope at least one of the bills passes. 

    Bounds is an associate editor.