Up for vote in the House tomorrow is a bill introduced earlier this year to make the ban on Internet taxes permanent (H.R. 235 or the “Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act”). The tax moratorium was first passed in 1998, creating a 15-year ban on the taxation of Internet access. The bill has been continually extended since then in a patchwork fashion, and most recently extended through September 2015. H.R. 235 is similar to the same bill that passed the House by voice vote in 2014.
Tomorrow’s passage of the bill into law would be extremely important, since not doing so will mean new taxes in the next four months. Opening up the Internet to taxation would lead to onerous and discriminatory taxes on consumers, similar to what we now see in the wireless industry. Today, the average consumer pays over 17% in taxes and fees on their wireless bills, with consumers in seven states paying over 20%. These taxes disproportionately affect the young, poor and minorities – but they hurt every wireless consumer.
Internet access has been extremely valuable to people across the Internet, allowing people opportunities to shop and save, further their education, or even open businesses. The Internet allows consumers to engage in these activities at an even lower cost, thereby lowering many to take advantage and compete in a marketplace they may have otherwise been shut out of.
Penalizing Internet access for Americans would be detrimental to economic and job growth, and it would cut off an important access point for Americans to engage in commerce and go about their lives.
Passage of this bill is crucial and it is one area where most Republicans and Democrats should, in the interests of consumers, agree. The House should take action on this bill tomorrow to protect citizens by permanently ending these taxes, and then get this bill into the hands of the Senate for action as soon as possible.