Aardvark DailyNew Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 18th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.
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Right now I can hear most of Aardvark's readers muttering "broadband tax - yeah, right!"
Given the emphasis that this government has placed on getting NZ wired with the new ultra-fast broadband (UFB) network it is obvious that they realise just how important ubiquitous, affordable connectivity is to the future of the nation.
Nobody would ever think of nobbling such an important piece of infrastructure by hitting it with revenue-gathering taxes -- would they?
Well stop and think a little...
Where would we be without our vehicles and roads?
That's right, although a UFB may be very important for the nation's future prosperity, our roading and transportation infrastructure is absolutely critical - yet it is more heavily taxed than almost anything else in our lives.
We have relicensing, fuel taxes, road user charges, drivers licensing fees, a growing number of toll roads, etc, etc.
History shows us that governments are always very quick to apply taxes to those things which are deemed "essential" because they know that there is no easy way for people to avoid such taxes.
With modern vehicles becoming ever-more fuel-efficient, revenues from the tax on each litre of fuel is likely to decline from current levels.
With our state-owned energy companies up for sale, dividends from them will be slashed by almost 50%.
These factors will likely leave government's revenues lagging behind the demand for state spending so you can bet that in the very near future, the quest will be on to find new ways of raising cash for the crown's coffers -- and what better way than a small tax on internet data?
The 15% GST we pay on every byte of data currently used is not enough. The prospect of a "data tax" which would augment these revenues must be awfully appealing to the government's beancounters.
After all, we are now a nation of data-junkies.
If we're not tweeting, updating our Facebook page, watching YouTube videos or hanging out for another edition of Aardvark Daily through our desktop PCs, we're doing it all with our smartphones.
Given the nation's voracious appetite for bits and bytes, imagine how much money would be raised by even a modest data tax of (say) $0.10 per GB.
I certainly hope I haven't given anyone in power any ideas -- but I strongly doubt that it's not something they're already contemplating and crunching numbers over as you read.
Let's not forget that there is probably massive lobbying going on from the movie and music industries who'll be whispering "yes, tax data and give us 20% to cover our losses due to piracy -- we'll back you all the way and take care of you when you retire"
What a wonderful justification for taxing the Net -- it becomes a way of compensating those hard-done-by media companies for their losses -- a cybermedia tax!
Enjoy these final tax-free days of internet use, they may soon be just a memory.
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