Sunday :: Jun 27, 2004

Florida Sneak A Tax

by pessimist

Alleged conservative Governor Jeb Bush of Florida is as anti-tax as his brother, the alleged pResident. So what are we to think about THIS little goodie from the Sunshine State?

Florida to Tax Home Networks

Florida state officials are considering taxing home networks that have more than one computer, under a modified 1985 state law that was intended to tax the few businesses that used internal communication networks instead of the local telephone company.
In 1985 the state passed a law to tax businesses using their own communications networks, because otherwise the state could not collect tax revenue on the businesses' local telephone service. In 2001, that law was expanded to make "any system that is used for voice or data that connects multiple users with the use of switching or routing technology" taxable up to 16 percent. The tax would be applicable (PDF) to the costs of operating such a substitute communications system, not to the purchase of the system's components.

In May, the Florida Senate unanimously passed a bill that would have prevented collection of the tax until 2006, during which time the law could be carefully reviewed. The bill was then sent to the House, but wasn't voted on before the summer break, clearing the way for officials to begin collecting the tax. As a result, the Florida Department of Revenue, which, according to local newspaper reports, was in favor of the bill to delay the collection of the tax, must now begin to address how the tax should be implemented.

If the law is implemented, Florida would have the most wide-reaching state tax on technology. But it may not be the last -- state officials estimate enforcement of the tax could bring in more than $1 billion a year in revenue for the state. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would have to approve any rule the tax department suggests. Bush has said he isn't in favor of the tax, but many fear he may be swayed by city and county government officials. The tax would go, in part, toward school construction and other projects.

Florida, just like every other state in the nation, is suffering serious budgetary shortfalls due to the slashing of tax rates for upper-incomes. Jeb Bush is in the enviable position (for state governors, that is) to be able to take in additional tax revenues while passing the blame to the Legislature which he will claim forced him to do so through its inactivity.

"The tax language is so broad that virtually any communication technologies in your home or office could be subject to this tax," said Chris Hart, spokesman for ITFlorida , a not-for-profit industry organization for the state's technology professionals. "It's difficult to imagine a more anti-technology, anti-business tax. It directly attacks the efficient use of information technology."

The law is so broad that it would apply to networked computers, wireless services, two-way radios and even fax machines -- or "substitute communications systems," as the state calls them. Florida businesses and residents -- and even some officials in the Florida Department of Revenue -- agree that the wording of the law is too broad.

"According to my accountant, the way the law is written, if my tax filing includes deductions for the repair or maintenance of my two computer and one printer network, those costs will be subject to state communication taxes," said graphic artist Linda Kellman, who works from home. "Self-employed people get slammed with insane taxes everywhere, and I've sadly but grudgingly accepted that. But this tax, if they ever try to collect it, would be the last straw. Can I outsource my network to a more sensible state, do you think?"

It also could tax almost any Florida resident who uses any sort of modern communications technology, something that Florida's battalions of retirees on fixed incomes have just begun to become aware of, according to Hart. "Information on this issue is starting to reach the general public, and it probably isn't widely understood just yet," he said. "However, once people do realize how this tax could impact them on a personal level, they wake up very fast."

"All my life, I've willingly paid my fair share of taxes in exchange for community services," said 73-year-old George Fedoro, a retired engineer who now lives in Boca Raton. "But this tax is not fair and could turn senior citizens into criminals, because no one that I know can or will pay it."

I think it safe to suggest that Diebold and ESS and all the other makes of paperless 'voting' technology won't have to pay this Florida tax!

pessimist :: 8:23 AM :: Comments (1) :: Digg It!