Taxation Of The InternetThe Internet or the Global Electronic Infrastructure has now been around for about a decade already and it has already changed how we live our lives.
Over the next decade, we will find that almost every aspect of our lives including education, health care, work and even leisure activities will be affected. We have already seen this occurring with the increasing use of cell phones, pagers, GPS systems, PDA’s, and many more gadgets that we use in our everyday lives. The Internet is a vast collection of information that consists of millions of web pages, news articles, audio and video clips, etc. There are several uses of how one can use the Internet for example students who have access to a library all the way across the globe or students who take their classes at a university on the other side of the country, doctors who are able to help other doctors and their patients and even a new way for consumers to purchase goods.
Over the past few years, the Internet has developed into something that none of us could have ever imagined, a place where goods and ideas can be exchanged with the slightest of ease. It has opened up a new door into commerce and online shopping. Many companies are now opening up their doors exclusively onto the Internet. Companies such as Amazon.com and Pets.
com, as well as many others are all internet-based. Under the Supreme Court’s Quill decision, remote sellers, such as an Internet retailers, are not required to collect local sales tax for the sales made in the state where the seller does not have a physical location. This absence of a physical location for online retailers gives an unfair advantage over the traditional local shops. In 1998, congress passed legislation called The Internet Tax Freedom Act, which imposed a three-year moratorium on new Internet access taxes and on discriminatory taxes on e-commerce (E-Fairness). This Act also set up the Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce to complete a report and devise a plan on whether the internet should be taxed and if so how (Lilly “Citizens for a sound economy”).
This three-year moratorium placed a policy of no taxes on the Internet, until April of 2001. This was done to make sure that the E-Commerce market was able to properly grow and expand. However, now that it has grown and has stabilized out it is time to place a sales tax for all internet transactions that take place on this global market-place. Over the past few years, the Internet and E-Commerce market has been experiencing a rapid growth period. Many people have argued that the government should not tax something that is growing at such a high rate.
If a tax is imposed, then the Internet economy may slow down to the crawl that is characteristic of many other heavily regulated areas of the economy. The businesses are growing and we have seen that in the last six months that the Internet economy has been slowing down. This is a sign of a stabilizing market or a market that is mature now. When the market becomes stable as it is seen, the government should impose the tax. The companies that are left in the industry and the consumers who are purchasing the goods can afford to pay a tax. A large majority of the dot-com startups have been kicked out of the competitive high tech industry.
However, larger and more stable online companies such as Amazon.com or Gap.com have been able to maintain their position in the industry. This shake out of smaller less stable companies shows that the economy is maturing and is ready for a tax. According to the International Data Corporation in a study in 1999 Internet commerce would exceed to roughly $1 trillion worldwide by the year 2003 (Bonnet “Sales tax and the internet”).
Approximately, seven percent of all U.S. retail sales will be conducted online by the year 2002 (Bonnet “Sales tax and the internet”). A recent report from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, shows that sales from many e-commerce companies has been increasing steadily for the past one year (U.
S. Dept of Commerce Retail E-Commerce sales). The Internet generates large quantities of sales that have been going untaxed. This gives a competitive advantage to the remote sellers to conduct business online and puts them to enjoy a tax haven. By doing this, more businesses will move all their transactions to the internet just to avoid having to pay the extra sales tax. This leaves behind the traditional “brick and mortar” retailers to compensate by paying higher taxes and they are put at a considerable disadvantage.
Not only are the traditional shops losing out, but also the local and state governments who are the recipients of tax money. State and local governments rely on sales tax to fund their budget. Programs such as education, police, fire, and transportation are all funded completely from sales tax. Without sales tax these programs are as good as gone. The state would not be able to educate our children, its fire departments would not be able to have enough firefighters to put out the fires, and the police departments will not have enough police officers to keep our streets safe. If an online retailer conducts business in a state, then the state government and its constituents are losing on a considerable amount of money. In June of 1999, The Ernst & Young report estimated that state and local governments lose roughly $170 million due to business-to-consumer transactions that were not taxed (Mauro 86).
That is $170 million less that will go to helping our schools, transportation, fire departments, police departments, etc. If this money had been taxed, California and other states would be able to improve their school system as well as pay for many other programs that are in need of funding. The lack of sales tax will force the government to cut essential programs out of the state budget causing sever damage to the constituents in that state.
The idea that those who purchase goods or services over the Internet cannot afford to pay taxes is wrong. The majority of those who purchase items over the Internet are those who belong to the more affluent sector of society (Silicon Valley News “Why an internet-moratorium is needed). These people make enough money through their jobs that they can afford to purchase those extra or non-essential items through the internet such as that third television set for their home, a new computer or even a new car that they have always wanted.
A poll by PC data magazine shows that of the people survey the new policy of no tax on the internet currently ships business away from the traditional shops and fifty-seven percent of home internet users said that they did take sales tax into consideration when they purchased something off of the internet (Gee wax “Taxing internet sales”). If people can afford to buy items like the ones mentioned above, then they can also afford to pay that sales tax that goes along with purchasing item. Before the Internet was used to purchase items, they still use to pay the sales tax that was associated with the item, so now that we use the Internet more often it is no excuse to not have sales tax. Although it is clear that the Internet must be taxed, the plan of how to implement such a system of taxing the Internet will be quite complicated and difficult to produce. There have been many suggestions in the past on how to go about taxing the Internet. In Texas, Internet service providers have placed a tax on accessing the Internet (Lilly “Citizens for a sound economy”).
Here a tax is in place if someone wants access to the Internet. If the Internet service costs above $25 then the tax is in place. However this has not gone without debate in Texas.
The tax on telephone as well as tax on the Internet access exceeds the rate of tax, which is on cigarettes and alcohol. Another proposal to for implementing a tax on the Internet includes using a third party who would act as a tax consolidator for online merchants. With the help of special software by Tax ware International, the software automatically calculates and reports the amount of taxes that should be paid to the proper tax authority (Francis “Internet faces a taxing question”). An example of this would include someone who lives in California and purchases a television from an online retailer who is from New York, the software would calculate the proper sales tax for the transaction as if it were any other transaction and the taxes would be collected from the buyer and sent to the proper authority for taxes in California. Although these are just two of many possibilities for implementing a sales tax scheme, an official and uniform plan may be much more complicated and take longer to fully develop and test. We must provide an even playing field for both the online retaliators who conduct e-commerce as well as the traditional retailers who have a physical location in their state to conduct business. By placing a sales tax on the Internet, we can achieve this level playing field for both parties without sacrificing millions of dollars in lost revenue to either party.
The Internet economy is mature now and has been showing a steady pattern for the last few months. The smaller companies that cannot compete in this competitive market have been thrown out and the larger companies have maintained their positions. The amount of money that is being lost form a lack of sales tax on the Internet has been steadily increasing. The time for imposing a sales tax on the Internet has now come. If we do not impose, the tax now then when will there be a sales tax on the Internet. Currently, the government is placing an unfair and unjust subsidy for all companies that place and conduct transactions over the Internet on a daily occurrence. Works Cited E-Fairness.
“Internet Tax policy.” Online. November 29, 2000.
. Bonnett, Tom. “Sales tax and the internet.” Online. April 19, 2001. Lilly, Aaron. “Citizens for a sound economy.
” Online magazine. November 29, 2000.Francis, Bob. “Internet faces a taxing question.
” Online. April 10, 2001. Gee wax, Marilyn. “Taxing internet sales gaining favor in Congress.
” Online. April 10, 2001.Mauro, Gregg. “E-commerce tax policy and planning: domestic and international issues.” New York, New York: Conference Board, 2001.
“Why an Internet-tax moratorium is needed.” Silicon Valley News. April 10, 2001: 35-37 United States Department of Commerce. “Retail e-commerce sales in fourth quarter 2000.” April 10, 2001.