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EU considering e-mail tax?

by tzt Fri May 26th, 2006 at 10:19:54 AM EST

According to Reuters and Helsingin Sanomat, the European Union lawmakers are investigating the possibility of taxing e-mails and SMS text messages. The proposed amount would be 1,5 euro cents per SMS and 0,00001 cents per e-mail message.


A European Parliament working group is reviewing the idea, tabled by Alain Lamassoure, a prominent French MEP and member of the centre-right European People's Party, the assembly's largest group.

Lamassoure, a member of Jacques Chirac's UMP party, is proposing to add a tax of around 1.5 cents on text or SMS messages and a 0.00001 cent levy on every email sent.

"This is peanuts, but given the billions of transactions every day, this could still raise an immense income," he said.

Helsingin Sanomat is saying that the other new tax possibilities include a general EU tax, tax on airline tickets and an extra tax on oil companies.

What are your thoughts on this? I am wondering what kind of infrastructure would have to be in place to manage e-mail message taxation. Would the tax office receive exerpts from server logs? Or would there just be an estimated sum of money paid by the ISP's, which would then of course charge their clients? And wouldn't people start using free e-mail servers which reside outside the EU? Interesting.

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All the mobile infrastructure is already there in 'mediation' layers.

Most networks grew fast when gsm arrived with the constant addition of 'boxes' as they are called - hardware units for specific tasks. Pretty soon every box was connected to every other box and no-one understood how it worked. So then came the mediation soft layers which track everything that's happening. Any network operator can tell you by the minute how many messages are being sent and received. They have to because of the roaming deals they have with other operators, which are somewhat like the old physical post deals.

So it would be simple to implement - the government would charge the operator and the operator would pass on some, all or none of the charge to the consumer.

I can't answer about ISPs though - though I suspect that they don't track individual messages 100% - they are more interested in the amount of data packets as a flow, because the deals across the networks are more about pipelines.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri May 26th, 2006 at 10:38:34 AM EST
SMS might be doable. E-mail would be a nightmare. A lot of it doesn't touch ISPs directly - companies use their own servers and the implementation costs could be very high indeed. It would be a bad tax on the basis that it's too expensive to collect.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 26th, 2006 at 10:43:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
exactly - and the data flow is already value-added taxed in the cross invoicing that charges for pipeline use.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri May 26th, 2006 at 11:59:40 AM EST
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Others have addressed the technical complications of collecting an email tax, so I'll just note something about the SMS, in the UK at least.

It's hard to think of a proposal more guaranteed to destroy the image of the EU in the eyes of young people in the UK than to put a tax on the form of messaging that is central to their social lives.

Alain Lamassoure deserves a special medal for services to Euroscepticism for this proposal.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri May 26th, 2006 at 12:24:25 PM EST
I don't have a clue whether this might be real or not in the EU, but in the USA it is a common and recurring hoax.  It seems to make the rounds about once a year.  

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Fri May 26th, 2006 at 02:26:50 PM EST
This has been proposed before as a way to kill e-mail spam. And of course it is technically trivial for the ISPs to pay the tax and pass it on to the consumer.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 26th, 2006 at 03:38:43 PM EST
I'd imagine it'd be really easy for the spammers to circumvent this. They'd only have to route the spam through some servers outside the EU, cracked linux boxes or somesuch. If I remember correctly (haven't been looking at e-mail server logs for almost a year now), most of the spam comes from outside Europe already.

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--
by tzt (tzt) on Fri May 26th, 2006 at 06:28:30 PM EST
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