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Is the Import of Books into India too ‘Tax’ing? Debunking the Myth


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We are happy to bring to you a guest post by Tejas Popat, a 2nd year student at the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata. In this post, Tejas debunks the myth that the books imported into India are expensive due to a high import duty.

 

Is the Import of Books into India too ‘Tax’ing? Debunking the Myth

Tejas Popat

It is widely recognized that academic books often need to be imported to make them available in India. A few years back an empirical study by Prof. Basheer and others revealed that, the latest editions of foreign educational books are available in India mostly at prices higher than those charged in the western markets. It noted that “It is obvious that Indian purchasers have to spend a significantly higher percentage of their income to purchase international editions of books, in comparison to buyers in the West”.

Often, one of the justifications given for higher prices of these books in India is the high import or customs duty incurred by the publishers. I shall demonstrate that this belief is mistaken.

When a printed book is imported from a foreign country into India, there is a customs duty of 10% levied on it under the Customs Act, 1962.  This is provided for under Tariff Item 4901 10 10 of Section X Chapter 49 of The First Schedule to the Customs Tariff Act, 1975. However, no effective duty is payable. This is due to the exemption provided under Entry No: 272 of General Exemption No: 165. This is a complete exemption. One can see the effect of the exemption here and here. Hence, there is no extra burden of taxation on the importation of books as compared to their printing in India. While there is no excise duty levied on printed books published in India, there is no customs duty effectively payable on imported ones as well.

Therefore, having seen that there is no extra tax burden on publishers importing the books into India, citing it as a justification for high prices of imported books is incorrect.

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