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Government moves to address printed material tax fallout

Published:Saturday | May 26, 2012 | 12:00 AM

HAVING ANNOUNCED his Government's intention to impose general consumption tax (GCT) on printed materials including school books, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips says measures are being developed to militate against the impact of the tax on schoolchildren.

"We have been and are in discussions with the minister of education and are working on an arrangement which would allow books needed for schools to be purchased through the Ministry of Education for the schools, so that children who are in need of those can get them without the GCT being applied," Phillips said yesterday.

He was speaking at a post-Budget press conference at Jamaica House, a day after proposing in the House of Representatives to remove items such as school books from the list of items attracting GCT.

In seeking to justify the tax on school books, Phillips said the Ministry of Education now provided the basic texts through the book-rental programme.

"There are sometimes additional texts recommended. We are in discussion with the Ministry of Education about those (texts) so that they can be made available though the book stores at the schools," Phillips said.

When Phillips announced the tax on printed materials on Thursday, it was the second time in three years that a finance minister had introduced such a proposal in Parliament.

Former Finance Minister Audley Shaw, in 2009, had included the charge among his raft of tax measures but was forced to beat a hasty retreat.

Then, Leader of the Opposition Portia Simpson Miller ripped into proposed tax measures to impose GCT on textbooks and computers saying there was a disconnect between the Government's proclamation for commitment to education and the demonstration of same.

"I know that you agree with us that GCT on computers and books is not progressive," Simpson Miller said in the Budget Debate that year.

"This move is like placing a tax on literacy ... . If you think education is expensive, consider the cost of illiteracy," she added.