VAT is killing us, cry publishers

By: BRIAN NGUGI

Publishers have yet again urged the government to scrap Value Added Tax (VAT) on books saying the charge is hurting learners and parents who purchase the learning materials.

Longhorn Publishers Chairman Francis Nyammo said in Nairobi that Kenya and South Africa are the only countries in Africa that have imposed VAT on books and this is impacting negatively on the education sector.

“We appeal to the government to scrap this tax as it is hurting the country’s education system. We see no reason to tax the paper with which we use to print the books yet impose additional taxes on the very books,” Mr Nyammo said on Thursday evening.

He spoke when the publisher unveiled its strategic plans to diversify its product line in order to grow market share and also expand into the greater East African region.

Mr Nyammo said the VAT on books re-introduced by the government two years ago goes against the globally endorsed Florence Agreement that exempts education materials from any form of taxation.

He said Kenya is a signatory to the treaty but disregarded advice from education stakeholders against reintroducing the tax that has raised the cost of books.

“This taxation goes against Kenya’s dream of becoming a knowledge based economy since we are taxing knowledge,” said Mr Nyammo.

Speaking at the event, President’s Education advisor, Mr Kilemi Mwiria, called on the government to increase funding for learning materials in public schools to enhance the student book ratio.

Books produced by Kenyan publishers are cheaper in Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan than in Kenya, what publishers attribute to the VAT.

Mr Nyammo, meanwhile urged the Ministries of Education and ICT to engage publishers more, in the ongoing development of a new school curriculum as well as the digital learning programme to ensure their smooth uptake.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION