The Internet is seen as a beacon for freedom of expression and information, free from taxation. Last month, however, that almost changed as Hungary tried to tax the Internet usage of its citizens.
The only thing standing between this tax and law was the monolith of protesters who filled the streets of Hungary. After asserting that “We [the government] are not communists,” the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, said that this tax would not be passed in its current form.
“Hungary has had a massive increase in industrial production in the past four years,” said Mr. John Ostick, Economics teacher. “It would seem to me that taxing those kinds of things would be a much better way to increase revenue than taxing the Internet.”
That raises the question: if it can almost be done in Hungary, can it be done in the United States?
“I don’t know,” Mr. Whitney, Head of the Computer Science Department said. “We certainly feel that the internet is a right, and not a privilege, and that the freedom of information and connection is a human right.”
Mr. Ostick questions how such a tax would be implemented. “It’s easy if you tax usage of the Walt Whitman Bridge, as only a certain number of people use it. But I’d be interested to see how the federal government keeps up with millions of American’s internet activity to accurately tax that activity.”
One method for the collection of taxes is similar to the sales tax, which could be tacked onto the Internet service provider bill. “That would certainly be easier,” Mr. Ostick said, “As the company collects the tax, and sends it on to the government, instead of the government having to do it themselves.”
Another avenue in which the federal government could accurately tax is through increased surveillance, already a heated topic, especially with the recent NSA scandals. “I can’t imagine the technology and policies that the IRS would use is more sophisticated than the FBI or NSA…” Mr. Whitney said, “[There could] possibly open up more surveillance, because when there’s taxes being paid, there’s individual identification for those taxes.”
Mr. Ostick doubts the concept of an internet tax in the American tax system. “The United States is geared towards income taxes,” he said. “They get most of their revenue from the income tax. I really think it’s going to be difficult to collect, and difficult to manage the massive amount of information.”
Concerned about the possibility of an internet tax? “Contacting your local representative is a great way to make your voice heard,” Mr. Whitney said, “Although there’s also social media, and ways to assemble.”
“A representative represents you on all issues, not just the big election issues.” Mr. Ostick said, “Especially with issues like this, no one wants new taxes, so you need to make your voice heard.”