Bibles are Tax Exempt in Some States

In preparing for my move to Florida in a few weeks I was looking for when the “Tax Holiday” would be and what would be covered. Imagine my surprise when I say this:

Books are NOT Exempt from tax during the 2011 Sales Tax Holiday except those books that are always exempt, such as Bibles.

“…books that are always exempt, such as Bibles.” Bibles are tax exempt in Florida? This is new to me. Apparently, Bibles are also tax exempt in Massachusetts, Missouri, and Texas. I have done some quick research this morning and have not been able to find much information about this, so I am turning to you.

Do you know if all “religious” books are tax exempt in these states? If not, how does this not violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution? Any information you can provide would be helpful. Also, I will be contacting the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty to see where they stand on this issue.


9 thoughts on “Bibles are Tax Exempt in Some States

  1. Yes, it includes all religious bibles, not just The Jewish and Christian bible. To not include all bibles would be a violation of the constitution and discriminatory.

    1. To be clear, not all religious books are “bibles,” but aside from that point I’m wondering if you can point me to some documentation that it is all religious books and not just The Bible. I fully agree with you that it would be a clear violation of the religious liberty clauses in the Constitution if it didn’t include all religious books but that does not mean it isn’t happening. Violation of the separation of church and state happen all the time and those of us who think religious liberty is an important value to uphold must defend it. That is why I am trying to find more information on this topic that was new to me only recently.

    2. How would you define the word “Bible”? Christians call their holy books “The Bible” (from the greek “ta biblia” = “The Books”), but Jews don’t. The so-called “Hebrew Bible” is usually called the “Tanach” in Hebrew, which is an abbreviation for “Torah, Navi’im, K’tovim”, or “Law, Prophets, Writings”. Does the Qur’an qualify? Do the Hadith? Which one of the multitude of Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu writings which are considered sacred by their respective religions would qualify?

      For that matter, can I just declare that the works of Carl Sagan are holy writ? The only way for this to be constitutional is to have all works tax-free, or none.

  2. (9) The taxes imposed by this chapter do not apply to the use, sale, or distribution of religious publications, bibles, hymn books, prayer books, vestments, altar paraphernalia, sacramental chalices, and like church service and ceremonial raiments and equipment.

    Fla. Stat. Ann. § 212.06 (West)

    Seems like this would apply to sacred texts of any faith.

  3. Geez! Shouldn’t “The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster” be tax exempt in these states! Oh sorry, there’s probably a huge fine or several days in Bible Class as a penalty in these backward states.

  4. I’ve found that South Carolina also has this exemption.
    Bibles are classified as “Newspapers”, which includes: “newsprint paper, newspapers, and religious publications, including the Holy Bible and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture’s The Market Bulletin”. (The wording inadvertently suggests agriculture is considered a religion.)

    In 2006 a court struck down Georgia’s tax exemption for “Holy Bibles, testaments and similar books commonly recognized as being Holy Scripture” for treating some philosophical works preferably to others (books on metaphysics and spirituality). The article states GA’s law “exempted purchases of works on Christianity and Judiasm. In past years, the state revenue department also suspended the sales tax for purchases of the Quran, the holy book of Islam.”
    So apparently the revenue department decides what is religious, and has exercised that power predictably.

  5. For Texas’ rule of tax exempt writings, search for Rule 3.299. The ruling covers all exempt written materials rather than just bibles. Bottom line: if the right kind of book is purchased from the right philanthropic, religious, or other tax exempt SELLER, the any book will be exempt. But, a BIBLE, QIRAN, TORAH, etc, are purchased from Amazon or a regular bookstore, including a religious bookstore, the Bible is taxable.

    Here’s what I learned, find the Bible or other religious book, find it on Amazon (still taxable at this point, but then look for a Marketplace seller, the books will be cheaper, they generally don’t tax the sale. I bought 5 of the “What the Bible is All About” series, many of which were new and $2.00-$3.00, none were taxed. Applies to new and used books. And be sure to buy fron a seller with a rating of at least 95%.

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