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Senate wants to tax your online shopping and Netflix-binge habits #InternetFreedomAct

The intent of the Internet-related legislation is to keep states from enacting new taxes on Internet access. However, the Senate is proposing an Act that would give states the option to tax “remote businesses” i.e. online retailers selling within states’ borders.

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Keeping states from enacting Internet taxes

The inclusion of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 had shown some promise when we reported on this critical moratorium a few weeks ago. The intent of the Internet-related legislation is to keep states from enacting new taxes on Internet access.

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However, the Senate removed the supporting language from the trade bill and included it instead in the omnibus spending package that passed both the House and Senate on December 18, 2015.

Senate proposing tax for online retailers

The moratorium on new taxes for Internet access has been extended until October 2016. While the White House has shown support for the legislation, through the President’s repeated statements in support of net neutrality, it’s the Senate that is prolonging the stopgap. Specifically, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R – Tenn.), who also wants a vote on the Marketplace Fairness Act, of which he is the lead co-sponsor.

The Act would give states the option to tax “remote businesses” i.e. online retailers selling within states’ borders.

Interestingly enough, the White House has been in favor of Alexander’s legislation, with an endorsement via former White House press secretary Jay Carney as reported by The Hill in this 2013 article. Carney spoke then on “the need for federal legislation to level the playing field for our businesses and address sales tax fairness.”

Leveling the playing field

The debate stems from the impact to various parties from consumers to retailers. The legislators in support of a remote business tax have stated that the law will create a level playing field for brick and mortar retailers, providing much needed revenue to states in need.

The opposing view believes that consumers will bear the cost through discriminatory taxes at the state and local levels.

Taxing your Netflix-binge habit

The concern about discriminatory taxes seems well-founded with Chicago’s July 1, 2015 creation of the 9% “amusement tax” that affects entertainment both in person and electronic delivery. Charges are required to be paid for the privileges of “watching electronically delivered television shows, movies or video,” as well as “listening to electronically delivered music” and “participating in games, online or otherwise.”

The code states that the amusement tax applies only to rentals, and not “permanent” downloads. This local ordinance mostly impacts streaming online services including iTunes, Netflix and Hulu.

Amazon calls for streaming tax

Interestingly, online sales giant Amazon has long supported this legislation as evidenced by this 2013 article from The Hill, stating that “Amazon argues that a single national framework for tax collection is preferable to a patchwork of state laws.” Amazon’s greatest online rivals including eBay and Overstock who don’t have a physical presence in the number of states that Amazon does.

Amazon has been collecting sales taxes in those states where they have a physical presence, including Illinois as of February 1, 2015, and Michigan on October 1, 2015.

On an intriguing side note, former Obama administration press secretary Jay Carney was hired by Amazon in February of 2015 as senior vice president of global corporate affairs.

His position includes oversight of public policy and public relations.

Streaming tax goes largely unreported in state returns

In states that require state income tax returns, consumers have been required to self-report that tax. According to this Detroit Free Press article, Michigan state officials estimated that “only 2.5% of what was really due” was reported for untaxed online purchases in the 2013 tax returns.

States’ rights vs. Net neutrality

Whether Senator Alexander holds true to his principles of the past or will sacrifice net neutrality for states’ rights will play out over the next ten months. Keep in mind that Alexander stated in these remarks from November 7, 2003, on the Internet Tax Moratorium of  “no taxation of Internet access” and that “virtually all of us are willing to keep state and local governments from taxing Internet access.“

Many economists are skeptical, and even accusing Alexander as well as Senate Democrat whip Dick Durbin of holding the ITFA hostage for the sake of their own agendas. National Review economist Stephen Moore pointed out the hypocrisy of some of Durbin’s statements in his article. “… Now the man who says the Internet should be universally available and affordable hypocritically wants to tax it to make it less affordable. The primary victims, if Senator Durbin’s eleventh-hour tax gambit succeeds, will be poor households…”

Indeed, having access to the Internet has moved well beyond being a luxury to being a convenience for all users, regardless of their income and tax bracket.

#InternetTaxFreedomAct

Debbie Cerda is a seasoned writer and consultant, running Debra Cerda Consulting as well as handling business development at data-driven app development company, Blue Treble Solutions. She's a proud and active member of Austin Film Critics Association and the American Homebrewers Association, and Outreach Director for science fiction film festival, Other Worlds Austin. She has been very involved in the tech scene in Austin for over 15 years, so whether you meet her at Sundance Film Festival, SXSWi, Austin Women in Technology, or BASHH, she'll have a connection or idea to help you achieve business success. At the very least, she can recommend a film to watch and a great local craft beer to drink.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Anakai

    February 29, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    I guess that Constitution thingy that all those guys like to love on so much suddenly becomes irrelevant when it comes to picking your pocket.

    Section 1, Article 9.5:
    “No tax or duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.”

    Reading is evidently not a required skill for electing people to positions of authority that control millions of people.

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How remote work has changed over the last decade

(BUSINESS NEWS) let’s reflect on how remote working and telecommuting has changed in recent years and look to how it will continue to change in the 2020s.

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As someone who often works remote, it’s interesting to see how much that means for work has evolved. The increase in commonality has been steady, and shows no signs of slowing down. Go Remotely has developed an insightful graphic showing the changes in trends regarding remote work over the years.

“For decades, the established economy dictated that you should pick one job, visit the same office for the next 40 years, and then retire,” reads the graphic’s intro. “However, recent remote working stats suggest the working world might be in for some revolutionary changes.”

From there, the graphic is broken down into five facets: Flexible Workspace Policy, Entrepreneurial Minds, Telecommuting is a Growing Trend, The Role of Companies in the Remote Working World, and The Future of Telecommuting.

With Flexible Workspace Policy, its suggested that telecommuting could be a solution for costly issues including lack of productivity caused by employee distractions, health problems, etc. It is said that employers lose $1.8 trillion annually due to these issues.

The end of 2018 found 35 percent of the US workforce working remotely. This is only expected to climb. Ten percent of employees don’t know if their company offers flexible work policies (this is something to check into!)

Bills and laws for virtual jobs passed by governments reflect the need for accessibility, economic stability, and emigration concerns. Companies with flexible work policies have reported seeing increases in productivity and profits. (Funny those both start with pro, no?)

With Entrepreneurial Minds, a few interesting things found include: remote workers are less likely to take off if they are sick, the majority reports better productivity when working alone, the majority reported lower stress levels. However, there is a problem with not being able to unplug after work which is an issue for some.

Telecommuting is a Growing Trend finds that there has been a seven percent increase between 2012 and 2016, with the majority (80-100 percent) reporting they work remotely. Industries seen embracing remote work include: transportation, computer/information systems/mathematical, arts/design/entertainment/sports/media, finance/insurance/real estate, law or public policy, community/social services, science/engineering/architecture, manufacturing or construction, healthcare, education/training/library, and retail.

The Role of Companies in the Remote Working World finds that the pros to hiring remote workers includes: finding talent outside of your geographic area, improves retention on work/life balance, increases productivity by decreasing commute time, and saves money by requiring less office space. The cons include lack of timeliness when it comes to receiving information from employers.

Finally, the Future of Telecommuting suggests that in 2020 the US mobile worker population will surpass 105 million (and will account for 72 percent of the US workforce). Hiring managers predict that telecommuting will increase tremendously, most skills will become even more niche over the next decade, and many think that 38 percent of their full-time workers will be working remotely in the next decade.

How do you feel about the increase in remote working and telecommuting?

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Business News

ClickUp team productivity app is gorgeous and wildly efficient

(BUSINESS NEWS) Seeking to improve your productivity and speed up your team, ClickUp is an inexpensive option for those obsessed with efficiency.

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Back again to obsess over productivity apps – ClickUp, is a project management tool seeking to knock the frustration out of PM. It’s getting some good reviews, so I gave it a try for a week by setting up my current job search as a project and getting a feel for the app. And as you’ve read in my other reviews, we will address features and design.

On the feature front, ClickUp offers a pretty standard set up of tools for a productivity app. What stands out first and foremost are the status options. In general, most productivity statuses are simple: not started, started, in progress, done, etc.

But ClickUp lets you set up custom statuses that match your workflow.

For example, if you’re doing instructional design projects, you may assign projects based on where they are flowing in an ADDIE model, or if you are a Realtor, you may have things cataloged by sold, in negotiation, etc.

Customization is king and custom status is the closest you get to building your own app. And if you like it simple, you don’t have to customize it. The assigned comments feature lets you follow up on specific comments that originate action items – which is useful in team collaborations.

You can also assign changes to multiple tasks at once, including changing statuses (I would bulk assign completion tasks when I finished applications that I did in batches). There a lot of features here, but the best feature is how the app allows you to toggle on and off features that you will or won’t use – once again, customization is front and center for this platform.

In terms of design and intuive use, ClickUp nailed it.

It’s super easy to use, and the concept of space is pretty standard in design thinking. If your organization uses Agile methodology, this app is ready for you.

In terms of view, you can declutter the features, but the three viewing modes (list, box, and board) can help you filter the information and make decisions quickly depending on what role you have on a board or project. There is also a “Me” board that removes all the clutter and focuses on your tasks – a great way to do focused productivity bursts. ClickUp describes itself as beautifully intuitive, and I can’t disagree – both the web app and mobile app are insanely easy to use.

No complaints here.

And the horizon looks good for ClickUp – with new features like image markup, Gannt charts (!!!!!! #nerdalert), and threaded comments for starts.

This application is great, and it’s got a lot of growth coming up to an already rich feature base. It’s free with 100MB of storage, but the $5 fee for team member per month that includes team onboarding and set up (say you’re switching from another platform) and Dropbox/Google Docs integration? That’s a bargain, Charlie.

ClickUp is on the way up and it’s got it all – features, a beautifully accessible UI, relentless customization, and lot of new and upcoming features. If you’re into the productivity platform and you’re looking for a new solution for your team, go check it out.

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Should you alter your business travel due to the Coronavirus?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Got a business trip coming up? Worried about the coronavirus spoiling those plans? Stay up to date and safe with this cool site!

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The Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at John Hopkins University has created a website that tracks one of the biggest trends of 2020: the coronavirus. Also known as 2019-nCoV, this disease has already spread to over 40,000 confirmed cases worldwide, with over 900 deaths (as of when this article was published, anyway.)

Not to mention, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that we still don’t know exactly how the virus spreads from person-to-person. In fact, there’s quite a bit we don’t know about this disease and although some people are reported as recovered, it’s only a small fraction compared to how many are sick.

So, what’s so great about this tracker? Well, first of all, it updates in real time, making it easy to keep track of everything we know about confirmed cases of the coronavirus. It’s chock full of statistics and visuals, making the information easy to digest. Plus, with a map front and center, it lets you know exactly where there have been reported outbreaks – and how many people have been diagnosed.

Because the site sticks to cold hard facts like statistics and maps, it also means you can avoid the racism and general panic that’s accompanied news of this outbreak.

This is a great tool for staying informed, but it’s also extremely helpful if you’re going to be traveling for work. As the virus continues to progress, you’ll be able to see just how many cases of coronavirus there are in the areas you’re planning to visit, which will allow you to plan accordingly. Even if you don’t feel the effects, you can still risk passing it to other people.

(In fact, the CDC recommends those traveling from certain areas in China practice “social distancing” when they return to the US, avoiding public spaces like grocery stores, malls and movie theaters.)

Of course, if you have something planned several months from now, don’t cancel your conference plans just yet. A lot can happen in that amount of time, so avoid the urge to check the website every couple hours. It’s supposed to be a tool for staying informed, not staying stressed out.

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