Dwight Patel



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eIssues facing the New Congress

By Dwight Patel



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Well friends, the election of 2000 is finally over.  Now we at the Association of Concerned Taxpayers (AOCTP) look forward to the coming 107th Congress.  This Congress will be dealing with a wide array of high-tech issues which have in large part been ignored by the members.

One of the biggest eIssues with respects to the Internet will be the moratorium on Special taxes.  The current moratorium will be expiring at the end of the year.  Congress will have to decide to either extend the moratorium or to let it expire and open the Net up for a slew of new taxes. The right decision would be to make the moratorium permanent.  In the 106th Congress, AOCTP supported Rep. Chris Coxís (R-CA) bill extending the moratorium for five years, and Senator Bob Smithís (R-NH) similar moratorium extension bill.  Although the Cox bill did pass the House in May 2000, Smith ís bill was bottled up in committee.

A second big eIssue for the new Congress will be Intellectual property rights with respect to the Internet.  The members will have to devise a way to tackle this issue without any sort of a template because this is uncharted water for the Congress, as are most of the Tech Issues.  Most members of Congress donít have a clue to what the Net is.  There are many members who refuse to turn their computer on or check email.  Two, they are not well informed on the topic of intellectual property.  They donít have any idea what Napster is or Gnutella, why Hollywood is leading an all-out assault on companies like them.

A third big eIssue is the idea of an Internet Sales tax.  This issue doesnít have to be as complicated but members of Congress are known for complicating simple Issues and over-simplifying complicated issues.   Politicians are very eager to levy some sort of a national sales eTax.  Many of these eTaxers are trumpeting the Digital Divide and saying that a tax from eCommerce would be used to close the divide.  Another cause is leveling the playing field for mom and pop stores.  Congress wants to level the field for mom and pop by stifling the eCommerce industry, as opposed to teaching mom and pop how to go online and take part in the new economy.  An easy and simple solution is to apply the current rules for catalog sales to the internet for taxation.  If you have a physical presence in the state where you are selling, you must collect sales tax otherwise no tax.

The fourth eIssue facing Congress will be the Digital Divide.  This is a myth perpetuated by many tax and spenders.  They seem to believe that a large segment of the population is being left off the Net.  They seem to think the only way to get these people online is by the government taxing those who are online to help these folks get online so that they can to pay a tax on the Net too.   What Congress fails to understand is that there are corporations like Microsoft setting up Internet labs in low income neighborhoods like housing projects in Washington, DC.  This is the same Microsoft that the Janet Renoís Department of Justice has been after for the past eight years.

The fifth and possibly the single most important eIssue will be Cyber Privacy.  The FBI earlier this year unveiled its Carnivore spying software. Carnivore allows the feds to see what you are doing online.  If you think that sounds like Big Brother, thatís just what it is.  The FBI claims that Carnivore is just like a tap on phone lines, but unlike phone taps, which the need a court order to do, they donít need any such order for Carnivore. Another Cyber Privacy issues is whether or not  online retailers have the right to sell the information they collect when you shop online without your consent.

In the coming months the Association of Concerned Taxpayers will be releasing a list of tech bills that are on the table and monitoring their progress as the 107th Congress gets settled in.  We will be watching on how these members tackle these issues, which will determine the future of the Internet.

Dwight Patel serves on the Board of the Association of Concerned Taxpayers.

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© Dwight Patel, 2000

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