On June 15, 2015, the Florida Senate passed House Bill 33-A, a tax relief package intended to save Floridians $400 million. Signed by Governor Rick Scott on June 16, 2015, this package includes the removal of sales taxes on college textbooks until June 30, 2016. The Section 29 of HB33-A defines textbooks as required or recommended print or digital instructional material used in the course of instruction. It also states that taxes “may not be collected on the retail sale of textbooks that are required or recommended for use in a course offered by a public postsecondary educational institution.” The tax exemptions do not extend to instructional materials purchased in theme parks, entertainment complexes, public lodging establishments, or airports.
The USF Campus Bookstore has confirmed that they will be participating in an enhanced price matching program. Starting in the Fall 2015 semester, Barnes & Noble will match competitor pricing for both physical and online bookstores. The price difference will be refunded to a gift card.
Additional details about the Price Match Promise program are as follows:
- •Price matching will be honored within 7 days of the original purchase date.
- •The textbook must be in stock and available for immediate shipment at the campus bookstore and the local competitor or online retailer.
- •The price advertised must be for the exact book/edition offered at the campus bookstore, including all accompanying components such as CDs, online access cards, student manuals or workbooks, etc.
- •Price matching includes purchase (new and used) and rental pricing. The rental term period must be the same.
- •The original receipt must be provided, and should show whether or not the textbook was rented or purchased, along with the price.
- •Digital titles and special orders are excluded.
- •Price matching applies to same condition items, used book to used book, new book to new book, used rental to used rental and new rental to new rental.
The new price matching policy will not apply to bulk purchases or any purchases made from aggregator sites, peer-to-peer marketplaces, or textbook marketplaces where products or services are provided by multiple third parties, vendors, and shops such as Amazon Marketplace, or chegg. For additional information, visit the USF Bookstore website.
State senator Anitere Flores, R-Miami, has officially filed a measured aimed at making post-secondary education in Florida more affordable.
Senate Bill 938 would exempt college textbooks and other instructional material from sales taxes. In order to obtain the tax exemption, students would have to present their student ID number and course syllabus to the textbook vendor.
The bill would also require that public universities list textbooks and other instructional material for at least 90% of courses and course sections to be taught in the upcoming term. This list would be made available to students at least 14 days before the start of class registration, and would have to be featured prominently on both the university website and within the course registration system.
In additional to textbook affordability, the bill also attempts to grant tax exempt status to the purchase of prepaid meal plans and prohibit resident undergraduate, graduate and professional tuition from exceeding a specified amount per credit hour.
In an effort to reduce the price of college for Florida students, Governor Rick Scott is proposing an end to state and local sales taxes on college textbooks. This new plan would cost the State of Florida approximately $40 million, but “would save full-time students at least $60 per year.” The textbook savings plan was released in conjunction with $23.5 million plan to expand Bright Futures Scholarships to include summer courses. In total, this particular proposal to the 2015-2016 budget would cost approximately $65 million.
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Following a recent Reddit discussion thread, a new textbook price comparison tool called Occupy The Bookstore has grown in popularity. According to the Reddit thread, Occupy The Bookstore is “a Chrome Plugin which overlays competitive market prices for textbooks directly on the college bookstore website.” When a user installs the extension, they see their bookstore’s prices for textbooks, as well as pricing from various online vendors.
The creators of the chrome extension, Peter Frank and Ben Halpern, are also the founders of Texts.com, a site that helps buyers find the best prices for textbooks. They are now facing litigation from the Follett Higher Education Group, the largest campus bookstore operator in the US. The Follett Group recently emailed Frank and Halpern and asked that they remove the extension on the basis that it “is effectively changing the presentation of the information on the screen.” Follett then stated that legal action would be pursued in the event of noncompliance. Unfortunately for Follett, their requests seem to have generated an unforeseen amount of publicity for the plugin; Occupy The Bookstore has now been downloaded from the Chrome Web Store more than 20,000 times and its creators have no intentions of removing it.
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