PUTRAJAYA - The local book industry has appealed for all books and e-books to be classified as zero-rated goods under the Goods and Services Tax to be implemented from April 1.
The Malaysian Book Industry Council recently presented a memorandum to the Finance Ministry, claiming that the current GST system was confusing for booksellers and burdensome for consumers.
"Zero-rated GST status will give the best price to the consumers and ensure that the final prices of books continue to be reasonable.
"This will help consumers to keep choosing books as 'value buy' purchases, out of the many alternatives available," said council chairman Ishak Hamzah in the memorandum.
Under the GST (Zero-Rated Supply) Order 2014, dictionaries, encyclopaedias, text, reference, work and religious books will be zero-rated and not subjected to GST. The standard 6 per cent GST will be imposed on all other types of books.
In the memorandum, the group said this had led to difficulties in labelling the final prices as well as category definitions, particularly for religious and children's books.
It said sorting the huge number of books considered as reference books for local colleges and universities was also an "overly complex" task.
"There are popular and literary novels used as textbooks at school and tertiary levels. These books have a dual usage. What kind of documents will be needed to supply these books with GST zero status?"
Under the current provisions, they said, local e-book suppliers were also affected by the GST whereas foreign firms such as Google Play, Apple iBookstore and Overdrive would not be impacted.
"Consumers will be drawn to buying e-books from foreign suppliers, harming the local industry," said Malaysian Book Association president and council member Keith Thong.
The group pointed out that since books and e-books had never been taxed before, offering zero-rated status on these items would have a neutral effect on the country's finances.
"Under the GST, books will be taxed for the first time ever. We feel this is something regressive to books and the spreading of knowledge in society," the council said.
"We need to award books with zero-rated status to ensure knowledge remains affordable for all layers of society and to continue our agenda for universal education."