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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 1997

Tax on Reading - Will the Parties Keep It?

For many years, books and periodicals were exempted from federal sales tax. The imposition of the federal sales tax and import taxes on books and periodicals has considerably increased the costs of learning and doing research in Canada. Key foreign research publications not only add on the Canadian tax but also hefty charges for processing required documentation. Thus, the cost to the government of collection and enforcement involving thousands of Canadian and foreign journals with tiny print runs is uneconomic.

  1. Does your party support the elimination of federal sales and import taxes on books?
  2. Would your party support the elimination of federal sales and import taxes on periodicals with small circulations (perhaps less than 10,000)?


The Liberal government implemented a 100 per cent GST rebate on all books purchased by public libraries, schools, universities, public colleges, municipalities and qualifying charities and non-profit organizations across Canada, effective October 23, 1996. This move was intended to complement government initiatives announced in the 1996 Budget to support learning and education in Canada: an increase in the Education Tax Credit to recognize the non-tuition costs of schooling; an increase in the limits on the Transfer of Tuition and Education Credits to support parents or spouses who help underwrite the education of students; and an increase in the contributions limits for Registered Education Savings Plans to assist those who are saving for their children's education. These policies were further enhanced in the 1997 Budget. The special rebate saves the purchasing sectors approximately $25 million a year.

New Democrats

1. Canada's NDP calls for the immediate elimination of the GST on all reading material.

2. Yes.

Progressive Conservatives

The Progressive Conservative Party is committed to sweeping tax cuts, beginning with Employment Insurance premiums and personal income taxes in our first mandate. In our second mandate, there will be further scope for further tax reductions.

The PC Party recognized from the beginning that the GST would have to be fine-tuned after introduction. We see this as a continuing process. A Jean Charest government will listen to constructive ideas on ways to improve the way the GST operates. However, government must act with great caution. The benefits of any changes must be weighed both against the danger that these will further complicate the tax system, and against the potential cost.

Reform Party

We will address this as part of a systematic review of the tax system which will include consultation with industry stakeholders and individual Canadians.