Will the American People Be Suckered or Given Succor?

Published February 8, 2016

The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA), receiving a large bi-partisan approval in the House of Representatives earlier this year, is supposedly going to be taken up in the Senate this week. The provision has been added into the conference report (the final version of a bill to be considered by both chambers of congress) of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015.

PITFA would continue the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) which was extended multiple times over the last seventeen years. ITFA was first signed into law in 1998. Originally intended to be permanent but negotiated to be temporary, the Act bans federal, state and local governments from imposing discriminatory taxes on online sales and Internet access, and protects consumers by limiting taxes on transactions to one state.

If ITFA expires then Internet using consumers will be burdened with at least $16.4 billion a year in new taxes. Given a still sluggish economy one may be tempted to think that passage the Senate would be eager to avoid this tax. After all, what politician wants to go on the campaign trail this fall bragging that they have imposed a massive new tax specifically targeting Internet users? What politician wants to explain why that while the federal government spends millions on making broadband available to citizens that they voted to fleece those very same citizens, driving up costs and hence reducing the amount of broadband usage in the U.S.?

To date, only one thing has prevented passage of a permanent moratorium and the elimination of disparate, discriminatory tax treatment of the Internet–politics. That threat remains for the upcoming vote but the tactics have gotten even more desperate.

For years, big-government pro-taxers, particularly in the Senate have put off a permanent fix in an effort to force Congress, and the nation, to accept a massive tax increase and the radical expansion of government authority with a legislative vehicle once oxymoronically named the Mainstreet Fairness Act. They have often deployed the parliamentary tricks that voters increasingly reject to thwart the vote. This time, however, there may be nowhere to hide.

Rumor has it that Senators Enzi of Wyoming, Alexander of Tennessee, and Durbin of Illinois will attempt to strip the PITFA language from the proposal and support the tax using a parliamentary trick. To be successful the three Senators need 57 other Senators to side with them.

Simply put, Senators who side with Senators Enzi and Alexander are supporting a massive tax increase. Those who oppose this trick are voting against a tax increase, standing to protect the Internet and its users from a discriminatory tax.

Opposing the Internet crushing tax, a broad coalition of 45 organizations from across the country, including Madery Bridge, recently sent a letter to the U.S. Senate urging its leadership to finally, permanently ban taxes on Internet access and end the game-playing with national policy.

The vote is an easy one to make for those who oppose massive government and huge tax increases. Finally called out of the shadows to vote in the light of day, the people will see where their Senators line up on the issue allowing citizens to decide for themselves whether their Senators should be ordered out of the U.S. Senate.