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College students can use the money

Tax refunds on textbooks sales is a good idea

By The Mercury

The bill to refund sales tax on textbook purchases by postsecondary students in Kansas has enough going for it that it sailed through the Kansas House of Representatives, 122-0.

The bill would allow students at any Kansas postsecondary institution — public and private colleges and universities, community colleges and technical colleges — to apply for tax refunds from the state on textbook purchases. Students seeking refunds would, of course, have to document their purchases.

Given that it’s not uncommon for students to spend $600 to $1,000 a year or more on textbooks, the refunds would be welcome. The statewide sales tax in Kansas is 6.15 percent, so the rebate on $600 would be about $40 and the rebate on $1,000 would be $61.50.

Senators shouldn’t have too much trouble with the bill, but they ought to seek reasonable estimates on how much the textbooks refunds could cost the state. Tens of thousands of college students in Kansas spending large sums of money every year on textbooks could add up to a surprising sum of money in refunds.

It’s safe to assume that refunds would cost less than simply eliminating the sales tax on textbooks, as advocates had initially sought, because not all students will seek refunds. Nevertheless, in a state whose annual revenue has been slashed by steep income tax cuts, any additional loss of revenue will be noticeable.

Even so, given the financial burdens that college places on so many Kansas students and their families — a burden that continues to grow — what’s surprising about this proposal is that it wasn’t approved in some fashion years ago.

Much of the credit for this initiative goes to student leaders at the Kansas Board of Regents institutions. In pushing for this bill, garnering legislative support and testifying before committees, they’re not only representing the interests of their respective constituents but getting some exposure in a political setting beyond their campuses.

House members deserve credit for listening to the voices of these young Kansans. We’re confident that student leaders are ready to make their case to the pertinent Senate committee and have no reason to doubt that senators will give the proposal a fair hearing.

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