California Councilman Proposes Email Tax to Help Foundering Post Office

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A councilman in Berkeley, California, Gordon Wozniak, has proposed a new email tax as a way to help subsidize the U.S. postal service. The post office has bled red ink for several years, and in part this is being blamed on the rise of the use of email, instead of regular paper mail or, as it has come to be known, ‘snail mail’. Wozniak’s (no word on whether he is related to Steve Wozniak of Apple fame) idea is that a tiny tax on the billions of emails that are sent could help to bolster the failing postal service.


The post office has fallen on hard times, on that everyone can agree. In the past couple of years we have covered the announcement that the post office will end Saturday delivery, the proposed closing of as many as 3700 USPS locations, and the post office’s claims that snail mail is safer than email.

With this new (and yet old) idea, Wozniak hopes to raise funds to help offset the losses that the post office has suffered in recent years.

Says Wozniak, “There should be something like a bit tax. I mean a bit tax could be a cent per gigabit and they would still make, probably, billions of dollars a year… And there should be, also, a very tiny tax on email,” suggesting that the tax be something along the order of 1/100 of a cent per email (or a penny for every 100 emails sent).

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Wozniak added, in an emailed statement, that “Since many billions of emails are sent every day, an email tax could raise substantial sums. Most of the revenue raised could be used to fund the managing and maintaining the Internet Superhighway and a portion to subsidize snail mail. Think of it as analogous to the gas tax used to maintain our physical highways.”

That said, and as Wozniak himself acknowledges, the Federal Internet Tax Freedom Act forbids, among other things, taxing email.

However, that said, the Internet Tax Freedom Act is due to expire in 2014, if it isn’t extended.

 

So, if you care about these issues, it’s time to write your Congressman letting him or her know your position on the extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, and taxing email in general.

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2 thoughts on “California Councilman Proposes Email Tax to Help Foundering Post Office

  1. Well, we do without Saturday Service in Canada, and have done so quite nicely for some time.

    As for taxing email, well, here the problem is that the tax may discriminate against the poor, who may rely on email. Also, how do you collect efficiently off millions of small people? Better to just raise taxes on the tech companies by 1%, they will not miss it, and the system will go on.

    From the viewpoint of politics, that government can do that – tax email. But unless all states did it, there would be some issues.

    Whether the government should do that, or whether such a tax would achieve the stated goal, is something else, altogether.

    There are plenty of odd things, inefficiencies in the postal system. Fixing those would help a lot.

    Finally there is this question: Should a postal system make money, or should it be viewed as a “cost of doing business” for a country?

    too many firms today refuse to look at that. They want everything to make a profit — even at the cost of losing clients.

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