Your property is taxed. Your income is taxed. Your investments are taxed.

But … your email?

A California official is bringing new life to the argument that the Internet — including emails — is an untapped revenue resource that should be taxed to help local economies.

Berkeley City Councilman Gordon Wozniak brought up taxing emails during a recent council meeting. He suggested the money collected, which would be part of a wider-reaching Internet tax, could be used in Berkeley’s case to save the local post office.

“There should be something like a bit tax,” he said during the March 5 meeting. “I mean, a bit tax could be a cent per gigabit and they would make, probably, billions of dollars a year.”

Plus, he said, there should be a “very tiny tax on email.”

This idea goes beyond already-controversial proposals to tax e-commerce — like buying used books on Amazon. This would be a tax on data.
Wozniak told the response to the idea has been varied.

“Most people don’t like the idea of taxing the Internet,” he acknowledged. “There are a number of people who say it’s a good idea, but some are saying it’s impractical and there’s no way to do it.”

Chris Edwards, an economist with the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, is one of those people.

“It’s a terrible idea,” Edwards told

“The government doesn’t need any more tax money. That’s not the problem. The American government is spending more than ever.”

Plus, he said, a tax like this would hit “different types of industry in different ways.”

Local governments can’t legally impose a tax on the Internet — but Wozniak’s idea is not as new, or perhaps as far-fetched, as it sounds. Amid concerns that the government could one day turn to the Internet for a new-age funding stream, Congress in 1998 passed a law called the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which bans Internet taxation.

That law is set to expire next November. If that happens, Wozniak’s proposal could someday turn into a reality — but the likelihood is slim…

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