City Council member faces backlash for suggesting an email tax

Lance Knobel/Courtesy
Councilmember, Gordon Wozniak, pictured above, brought up the possibility of an email tax.

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Berkeley City Councilmember Gordon Wozniak is garnering national media attention for his recent suggestion of an email tax.

The San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times and the Huffington Post have all recently covered Wozniak’s proposal of a tax on email that could help in generating funds to aid the U.S. Postal Service, which is currently experiencing financial difficulties.

“It must have been a slow day in the media,” Wozniak said regarding his recent media attention.

Wozniak has since faced significant backlash to his email tax proposal, receiving a fair amount of hate mail for the idea.

However, Wozniak is not the first to consider an Internet tax. The “bit tax” was first proposed by Arthur Cordell during a talk at Harvard Law School in 1997 and was also explored later by the United Nations, according to Wozniak.

Wozniak believes that a bit tax or email tax could serve as a measure to effectively gain revenue that the government needs to support other public works in addition to the Postal Service, such as education and health care.

“(If you consider) the terabits of data per second sent around the world, that’s billions, trillions of bits — even a small tax would generate substantial revenue,” Wozniak said.

Under the Internet Tax Freedom Act passed in 1998, it is currently illegal to place a tax on Internet usage. The act will expire in 2014, and it will be up to Congress to decide whether or not the act should be renewed indefinitely. There are presently no plans for a federal Internet tax to be implemented. Nevertheless, Wozniak remains hopeful.

“The idea is out there,” Wozniak said. “Things could change in the future, but it’d have to be changed on a federal level.”

Contact Jennie Yoon at [email protected].