Higher tax means fewer, more expensive publications
Posted: March 9, 2011
Photo Credit: occhiovivo
Czech books - Most titles expected to rise by 50 Kč
The long-debated plans for pension reform, which the government agreed to March 2, could have unexpected consequences for publishers, booksellers and readers, as the new plan includes a 20 percent VAT, which would raise the price of the average book by 50 Kč, as soon as this autumn.
Writers, publishers and intellectuals, led by the Association of Czech Booksellers and Publishers (SČKN), have vocally opposed the tax. Vladimír Pistorius, chairman of SČKN, told The Prague Post that the most alarming problem about the tax is not the increased price of books but the fact that there will be a significant reduction in the number of newly published books, including textbooks.
"When the VAT increased 4 percent in 2008, Czech book production decreased 8 percent. With a 10 percent increase, the decrease might be 16 to 20 percent," he said.
Independent publishers - who often specialize in poetry, philosophy and literary criticism as opposed to mainstream bestsellers - have little margin and therefore will be devastated by any dramatic drop in sales. The publishing house Fra is one of those at risk, according to Erik Lukavský, manager of Fra.
"It is always hard to guess what will happen, but for sure, if it doesn't destroy us, we will be publishing fewer books," he said.
The tax on books will have cultural ramifications as well, according to Pistorius, who said that the high tax will put the Czech Republic in league with East European countries like Belarus, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Albania.
"These are the countries our cultural politics is trying to match. There is zero tax on books in the United Kingdon, Ireland, Norway and Croatia," he said.
SČKN has organized an online petition titled "Appeal for Book Defense," which has gathered more than 75,000 signatures from authors such as Václav Havel, Zdeněk Svěrák, Tereza Brdečková, Jaroslav Rudiš and Petra Hůlová.
The appeal states, "In 1948, publishing houses and bookshops were dispossessed, very strict censorship was introduced, and a number of authors were silenced or subject to persecution. During Normalization after 1968, thousands of books by forbidden authors were removed from libraries. The VAT increase forthcoming by the - this time democratic - government will cause a new disaster because it will significantly reduce book production."
Filip Šenk can be reached at
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