Islanders with a penchant for reading will not have to fear the HST when it comes to P.E.I. this spring.
The province announced Tuesday books will be exempt from the provincial portion of the HST, known as a point-of-sale rebate. That means Islanders will only have to pay five per cent GST on books instead of 14 per cent HST.
Premier Robert Ghiz said this will be done as part of his government’s focus on enhancing education, early learning and literacy.
“We’ve been talking a lot about literacy levels in our province, on education on higher education, on increasing our literacy assessments. Books seemed to make sense in that
manner,” Ghiz told reporters.
But he said this would be the only point-of-sale rebate offered at this time. There will be no exemptions or rebates for electricity or alternate sources of heating, such as wood.
“We can’t cover off everyone,” Ghiz said.
“Yes, we’d love to exempt electricity, woodlot owners, all these different areas, but there’s only a certain amount that we can go out and exempt.”
A 14-per-cent HST was announced as part of the Ghiz government’s spring budget last April.
At that time, government declared home heating oil and children’s clothing and footwear would be the only full HST exemptions.
That’s because the province has only a five-per-cent exemption allowance from the federal government when implementing the harmonized sales tax.
But other provinces that have adopted the HST have also added point-of-sale rebates, which free consumers from paying the provincial portion of the combined federal-provincial HST.
Finance Minister Wes Sheridan told The Guardian last June the reason few rebates will be offered is because government is banking on $25 million a year in new revenues from the new tax in order to meet its budget targets.
Ghiz said Tuesday he wishes he could exempt more items from the HST or add more point-of-sale rebates, but simply cannot afford to do so at this time.
“I’d love to exempt everything. Then we’d have no taxes and we wouldn’t provide any social programs in the province. I can’t do that,” he said.
Opposition Leader Olive Crane said she and her caucus will be voting against the HST legislation to be tabled during this session of the legislature.
She is concerned over the added costs Islanders will be paying for electricity and other goods and services.
“Islanders are struggling to meet their basic needs and it’s unfortunate that government is not listening to Islanders,” she said.
Ghiz said more point-of-sale rebates may be added later when the province’s finances are stronger.
The province will also offer HST rebate cheques to low-income Islanders whose combined household incomes are $55,000 or lower.