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Publishers want VAT scrapped

Publishing body argues tax has made reading culture unaffordable for readers and unprofitable for industry

Seth Onyango @SethManex

Publishers have stepped up lobbying to have the government scrap the 16 per cent value-added tax (VAT) charged on textbooks.

It comes on the background of their failed bid to push for the amendment of the VAT Act 2013 in 2016.

Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) officials held a meeting with Opposition chief Raila Odinga and appealed for his intervention to have the levy on books removed.

Raila was, however, non-committal even as he expressed the need for better access to reading materials in school.

Publishers have blamed tax charged on books for low absorption of textbooks in schools, arguing it had made them too expensive for parents.

“Following the Handshake, we know you (Raila) have connections and we want to appeal to you to have the government scrap the VAT on textbooks,” said KPA chairman Lawrence Njagi.

Former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga is mobbed by school children at the 21st Nairobi International Book Fair. Photo/BERNARD ORWONGO

He argued that the heavy taxation was impeding learning in school as it had made the cost of studying material out of reach for the majority of households in the country.

In 2014, the tax created a ripple effect on the education sector with more than 10 publishing companies shutting down when it was effected.

By scraping the VAT on books and their inputs, the cost of textbooks would go down by 30 per cent.

Launching the 21st Nairobi International Book Fair (NIBF) yesterday, Raila steered clear of the subject even though sources told People Daily that he had privately expressed the need for the cost of books to go down.

Raila urged publishers to ensure all Kenyans have access to books regardless of their socio-economic status by tapping into e-learning.

He urged publishers to invest in digital books and challenged writers and publishers to publish and sponsor debates on national challenges like corruption and tribalism.

“Authors, booker sellers and publishers need to join hands and lobby for the establishment of a mechanism dedicated to solely for the promotion of reading in all counties,” he said.

He said publishers should consider visually impaired learners by providing more books in brail form.

NIBF is organised by the Kenya Publishers Association.

Last year’s fair attracted more than 29,000 visitors and more people are expected to attend the exhibition, which is the largest in Africa.

The ongoing fair has 55 local exhibitors and 15 from China, Uganda, Korea, Senegal, UAE, Tanzania, South Africa, India, Pakistan, US and Nigeria.

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