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Why ebooks in Quebec are a taxing issue

While NPR urges the world to stop the ebook versus print debate, in Quebec, the debate has shifted to how digital titles are taxed, and what constitutes a “real book.”

According to Montreal’s The Gazette, the Quebec government has treated print books as zero-rated for tax purposes since 1996, but ebook sales can still include the 9.5 per cent provincial sales tax.

Robert Hayashi, CEO of the digital publishing advocacy organization eBound Canada, disagrees with the discrepancy. “Just like there is a hardcover (print book) format and a softcover format, ebooks are just another format,” he told the The Gazette. “So if government is not taxing the hardcover book, we believe that government should also not tax the ebook.”

In another Gazette article, Kobo’s vice-president of finance, Daniel Budlovsky, lamented that Quebec consumers who purchase ebooks through Kobo are charged both provincial and federal sales taxes, while those who buy their ebooks through U.S. competitor Amazon pay no sales taxes.

Although Budlovsky said the discrepancy “should be atrociously viewed by the Canadian public,” Kobo isn’t ready to battle the Canadian government to change the tax laws.

“We accept the law for what it is and feel that it should be changed but that is a long and bureaucratic process,” Budlovsky said. “We work in a … fast-moving industry where we need to stay ahead of the competition by working on things that are under our control.”