In an effort reduce the cost of college, state Rep. Robert Kosowski (D–Westland) introduced a bill to the Michigan legislature that would exempt college textbooks from the 6-percent state sales tax.
The proposed legislation, House Bill 5309, would eliminate the tax from textbooks for college students who purchase them with a valid student identification card.
In an interview with the Michigan Daily, Kosowski said his primary motivation for introducing this bill was to help students save money while going through school.
According to estimates from the College Board, students at public four-year institutions spend an average of $1,298 on textbooks and school supplies each year. The University’s Office of Financial Aid recommends University students allocate $1,048 per year for books and supplies.
Kosowski said his office's research found that the average cost of textbooks to a student is $1,300, Kosowski said.
“1,300 dollars is a lot of money for a college student, if we can save them even $78 of that, it’s a positive thing,” Kosowski said.
Kosowski said his office did a study in Maryland, a state that also has a 6-percent sales tax and numerous colleges, which determined the state collects about $7 million each year in textbook sales tax revenue. Kosowski said this number would be relatively similar to what could be expected in Michigan with a textbook sales tax exemption.
The small decrease in tax revenue would be negligible, and would be outweighed by the larger benefits to students, Kosowski said.
“This seems like a no-brainer,” LSA sophomore Cochise Jackson said about the bill. “When I was trying to buy my chem book for like $250, it would’ve been great if that was reduced even a little bit.”
LSA sophomore Jose Guzman echoed Jackson’s sentiment, saying he could definitely use extra funds and allocate them to other school-related costs such as supplies.
LSA freshman Bryan Pollard said when he came to the University he was nervous about the high prices of textbooks, but they actually ended up being less than what he was expecting. However, he said he still believes that having textbooks be sales tax exempt would be beneficial.
“I think this legislation would be great for a lot of people; anything that can save money definitely helps,” Pollard said.
The bill was proposed by Kosowski and is also sponsored by state Reps. George Darany (D–Dearborn), Kurt Heise (R–Plymouth Township), Harvey Santana (D–Detroit), LaTanya Garrett (D–Detroit) and Frank Liberati (D–Allen Park).
Though five of the bill’s sponsors are Democrats, Kosowski said he was glad when Heise, a Republican, supported the bill.
While this tax exemption raises the issue of textbook retailers potentially raising their prices in the absence of the sales tax, Kosowski said he didn’t think that would be the case on college campuses.
“I don’t think there is a price gouging situation,” Kosowski said. “Most bookstores on college campus have a lot of integrity.”
The bill was referred to the Committee on Tax Policy last week for review.