Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Net tax: coming to a computer near you?

In no way is a tax on the internet a good thing. Other than online shopping, I see no validity in such taxes. But that won't stop the American government from imposing web taxes as early as this fall. Two taxes are being proposed: a sales tax on online shopping, which already exists in some areas, and the more daunting access tax. So far there have been legal loopholes and complications for online retailers and shoppers. As recently as a few years ago sales taxes on web purchases were virtually nonexistent.

On 1 November the ban on taxing internet access (the Internet Tax Freedom Extension Act of 2007) in the United States expires. Later this year is when the real trouble may begin. Just like the net neutrality battle last year — with technology know-nothings in charge of regulating the internet like Alaska's Sen. Ted Stevens pushing for a two-tiered internet favoring the telcos' revenue stream — there is bound to be a net tax battle this year. They are similar in that these issues not only deal with the web itself, but the openness and freedom of it. That is the essence of the World Wide Web. An internet too tightly controlled by the government is not good; nor is one wrapped around the finger of the ISPs good.

Between the privacy violations by the government in the name of anti-terror and the tax and net neutrality issues — and the issue of who ultimately controls the web — there is a lot to be done on the growing issue of how the internet will continue. I think a net regulation body should be independent under the auspices of the United Nations, instead of a potential pawn of the US Department of Commerce — and the private ICANN before that. The WWW is exactly that: worldwide. Why not have it controlled by the UN — the worldwide body — instead of one nation? That question will have to be confronted at an official level someday soon.

Taxing me for the land I own or when I buy food is fine, but taxing my email is something I won't stand for.

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