Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has called on the Government to reduce the 23% VAT rate on electronic school books so that the saving can be passed on directly to students and their parents.
The Dublin South West TD was supporting calls from the Irish Education Publishers’ Association (IEPA) who claim that the 23% rate means parents and schoolchildren are not getting the full benefit from e-books.
Deputy Crowe said:
“The cost of school books rises as children pass through the education system, with parents being charged on average between €50 and €100 for books for a junior infants pupil and over €250 for a first year pupil. Another factor is the high cost and constant changing of books used in the school curriculum system. Unless more and more schools implement a book rental scheme many parents will continue to struggle to meet payments for their children's education.
"We also know that the volume and weight of schoolbooks has impacted negatively on the health of children and has become an increased problem in recent years for students of all sizes and ages. The problems of their weight has been raised by Irish educators, parents groups and teachers representatives in various fora and education conferences down through the years.
"The Minister Ruairí Quinn and the Department of Education needs to show initiative and greater imagination when addressing the issue of books and e-books and their long term impact on Irish students.
“Over one third of Irish schools use an electronic version of a book which imposes an initially high cost on parents when paying for a table computer to read them on. This is supposed to be off-set through the use of e-books which are meant to be cheaper in the long-term with costs down to between 20% – 35%. However, if claims by the Irish Educational Publishers Association (IEPA) are correct, then the 23% VAT rate being charged on electronic books means any potential savings are being cancelled out.
“It is simply not good enough for Finance Minister Michael Noonan to rule out reducing the VAT on e-books by blaming EU laws which require all digitised publications to be treated as a supply of service. Electronic school books are essential to a child’s education and they should be exempt from the excessive VAT rate of 23%.
"I fully support the IEPA in its call for a reduction in the VAT rate, Finance Minister Michael Noonan needs to wake up to the negative impact this unfair tax is having on Irish parents and encourage the greater roll out of e -books in the Irish education system."