Net sales tax move is biggest gripe for Web companies

Lawmakers’ attempts to attach an Internet sales tax to a bill preventing a tax on Internet access topped a group of Web companies’ list of bad laws for 2014. 

The legislative maneuver was the top issue on a “watchlist for ugly laws” released by the trade group NetChoice on Wednesday.

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“The only thing worse than an unfair bill is an unfair bill shoved through Congress using an unfair process,” said Steve DelBianco, the executive director of the group, which includes Web titans like Google, Facebook, eBay and AOL.

“At a time when lawmakers are making real progress on remote taxation approaches that don’t punish specific technologies and business models, this crass attempt to attach fatally flawed legislation to an important and uncontroversial bill is truly awful,” DelBianco added in his statement.

Critics of an Internet sales tax revolted when bipartisan group of lawmakers attempted this summer to include the measure with an otherwise uncontroversial bill banning taxes on Internet access, called the Internet Tax Freedom Act.

Supporters of an online sales tax say it would level the playing field for brick-and-mortar shops trying to keep up with online competitors.

Opponents, however, have said that the provision would be unfair to smaller online stores that would have to contend with a maze of state and local tax laws. An online sales tax is also unrelated to general Internet access, they maintain, so the two should not be linked.

Items on NetChoice’s semi-regular list of troublesome laws are ranked by how much harm they could cause the online economy and the chances of them being implemented.

In addition to the tax move, the Web group also listed state and city laws seeming to lower people’s digital privacy when they die as well as crackdowns on ride- and house-sharing services such as Lyft and Airbnb. The group also blasted Europe’s “right to be forgotten,” which allows people to force companies like Google to take down links about themselves that may be embarrassing or out of date. 

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