Democrat proposes taxes on commercial space flights for nonscientific purposes

Greg Nash

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said Tuesday that he is planning to introduce legislation that would establish excise taxes on commercial space flights with human passengers that aren’t focused on scientific research.

Blumenauer, a senior member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, announced his proposal on the same day that billionaire Jeff Bezos participated in a brief trip to the edge of space. Another billionaire, Richard Branson, made a similar trip earlier this month.

Blumenauer raised concerns about the environmental impacts of the growing space tourism industry, and said that wealthy people making space trips should pay taxes that are similar to the taxes people pay for airplane flights.

“Space exploration isn’t a tax-free holiday for the wealthy,” Blumenauer said in a statement. “Just as normal Americans pay taxes when they buy airline tickets, billionaires who fly into space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and then some.”

“I’m not opposed to this type of space innovation. However, things that are done purely for tourism or entertainment, and that don’t have a scientific purpose, should in turn support the public good,” he said.

Blumenauer’s office said there would be two parts to the congressman’s proposal.

The first part would create a per-passenger tax on the price of a flight to space. The second part would create a two-tiered excise tax for each space launch, with one tier for flights between 50 and 80 miles above the Earth’s surface and a second tier with a higher tax for flights that exceed 80 miles above the Earth’s surface. There would be exceptions to the taxes for NASA flights for scientific research purposes. 

Tags Earl Blumenauer Jeff Bezos
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