New Florida Tax Exemption Cuts Textbook Costs for College Students

By Brenda Zelaya

Financially overburdened college students across the state of Florida are about to get some welcome relief. A new law effective July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016 has declared that college textbook purchases are now tax exempt for students with a school ID or valid course syllabus.

The new law exempts both state and local taxes, and works with textbooks purchased online–in which case taxes can be removed by presenting your receipt and a valid student ID to any campus bookstore–or at a physical establishment. Orders being sent out of the state will not qualify for an exemption.

“At the campus store, we support all initiatives that help make education more affordable,” said Richard Stone, employee of the Follett Higher Education Group and manager of South Campus Bookstore.

With over 14 years of experience at South Campus, Stone is aware of the high expenses students incur through textbook purchases. Recent trends at the bookstore indicate that renting, rather than buying, has become an especially popular option. Renting is prevalent with science and technology textbooks, which have to be updated frequently and fetch the highest prices at most outlets.

“Today, pricing is based on the cost from the publisher [for a new book]. Since the campus store cannot control their pricing, we create additional markets [used books, rental, etc.] that deliver big savings to local students, often up to 70% savings compared to buying those new books,” said Stone.

Wendy Tavarez, a Digital Media and Multimedia Design student at FSCJ, finds the new law helpful. Tavarez usually spends between $100-$200 on her books each semester, often by purchasing the bare of minimum of required texts. She recoups some of her money at the end of the term by selling her books back to the bookstore for half of their sticker price.

“We are already paying for the classes and that’s usually over a grand for most people, so I think it would help a lot if we didn’t have to pay so much for books,” said Tavarez.

Tavarez proposes that the government should distribute more funding to both teachers and schools. Professors have to pay for books and office essentials–supplies she believes should be funded by the government. If this funding occurs, Tavarez thinks professors could help students by paying for part of the materials they require.

Psychology student Max Rocha spends anywhere from $150-$300 on books each semester. He finds the school bookstore to be prohibitively expensive, and rents his books from Amazon. He’s waiting to see the effect this new law will have.

“If this [tax exemption on textbooks] is a big game changer then that’s great, and maybe it doesn’t need to be addressed any further. But if it doesn’t have any effect then maybe we should think of further options,” said Rocha.

Rocha believes books are not needed for introductory level classes in freshman or sophomore year. For him, there is abundant information online that covers many of the topics these books convey. He points out that some professors draw their material directly from a specific text, and in those cases there’s no way to get around buying the book.

Students and faculty at FSCJ appear to be mostly satisfied with the new textbook tax exemption, but they’re still waiting on further changes in the college structure to make supplies more affordable for everyone in pursuit of higher education.

For more information, see The Department of Revenue

Featured Image by David Goehring

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