Importing Digital Books to Brazil
The definition of book in Brazil is broad and leaves room to misinterpretation. Through this article you will understand how the federal government has tried to apply taxation over e-readers and what has been done to avoid this taxation.
Brazil is not known for being very friendly to imports. Several items such as clothing, cars and machinery have to deal with complex and extremely high tax burden that increases significantly the price of the product to the consumer.
Recently, a controversy was raised regarding the import of e-readers to Brazil. The Brazilian law exempts books from all taxation applied to imports. The criteria used to this exemption is that the State is in charge of promoting access to education and cultural manifestations, so the form through which the consumer has access to this content is not relevant and, therefore, can not be considered as a different item subjected to taxation.
But in order to understand this issue, it is necessary to explain what exactly the Brazilian law understands by book.
Access to Education and other Textual Forms
In 2003, books were defined as the publication of written texts in paper. Digital books were only accepted when used by people with disabilities such as deafness or blindness. However, already in 2001, states like Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco, Ceará and Santa Catarina called books any non-periodic content, distributed in any format or vehicle of one or multiple material or digital basis.
In these states, all editorial products fixed through electronics, electromagnetic or digital means, such as VCR, tape and disk, as long as containing original material or originated from books or multimedia, were considered to be books.
As technology advances, we have seen a significant change in the reading habits all over the world. More and more people are reading on the computer, tablets, mobile phones and other digital equipments and the traditional print media is losing space. If what is considered is the content and not the form, print or digital books can not be taxed, as regardless on the form, they are both a cultural manifestation.
From CD-ROM to E-readers
Back in the 90's, when CD-ROM became popular among students, the federal government considered applying taxation over it. After a lot of discussion and different interpretations of the law, the decision by the Federal District Court was that CD-ROM should be exempted from taxation for the very same reason books are, as both of them have the same purpose.
Recently, a federal judge granted tax exemption to e-reader Kindle. The judge stated that the e-reader can be included in the same tax exemption granted to regular books, guaranteeing the initial freedom of communication and thought, as well as encouraging culture and education in Brazil.
The previous concept of book could no longer prevail, as it would be a regression regarding technological evolution that have been taking place in society in a very fast pace and that Law must keep up with. The replacement of paper by e-readers is an irreversible tendency and if the concept of book remained the same, Brazil would have an inefficient rule for tax exemption.
It is important to say that Kindle is exclusive to the reading of electronic books, so it can be granted with tax exemption. To that extent, other electronic readers such as computers, notebooks, iPhones and iPads are not exempted as they offer other features that are not equivalent to the ones offered by an e-reader.