Say hello to the new Internet tax

The Telecommunications Act is a massive piece of legislation, however, with a great number of obscure provisions and unforeseen consequences. One such provision, the one to which O’Rielly is referring in his comments, requires telecommunications companies to pay into a “Universal Service Fund” for the purpose of supporting access and infrastructure for remote rural areas.

Section 254(d) states “Every telecommunications carrier that provides interstate telecommunications services shall contribute, on an equitable and nondiscriminatory basis, to the specific, predictable, and sufficient mechanisms established by the Commission to preserve and advance universal service.”

These contributions are far from trivial. In the fourth quarter of 2014, the FCC announced that the charge to telecommunications companies would be 16.1 percent of end user revenues. When companies face a cost increase like this, they do not simply absorb it. Instead, they pass it on to consumers in the form of higher prices to the extent they can get away with it without losing business. Additionally, the incentive for companies to keep prices low in order to remain competitive does not exist in this case, since every ISP will be hit with the same cost increase simultaneously.

Time Warner Cable has reported its average monthly charge for internet is about $47. The FCC’s rate increase would bring this to $54.57, an increase of more than $90 a year, and this does not include any further increases we might see as a result of higher compliance costs with the new regulations. Imposing additional costs on consumers through government fiat so that the FCC can increase its own revenues is unquestionably a step backwards for internet freedom.

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If you are employed, unless you work from home, you probably have to commute to work. Many commute from the suburbs to the nearest urban center, and for some, those urban centers are in different states than their residences. This map highlights that phenomenon, showing the percentage of workers in each county who commute to a different state for work.

Not surprisingly, the counties with the highest percentages are adjacent to state borders. Nine counties have greater than 50% commuting to a different state. In most cases, the flow is unidirectional. For example, people leave Phenix City, AL, to work in Columbus, GA, or they drive from Vancouver, WA, to Portland, OR. This may be for tax purposes, or simply because they prefer the lifestyle or affordability of a certain suburb.

Data source: (ACS 5-yr, Table S0801)

So the “healthcare is a privilege not a right” post got picked up again tonight.

Apparently a pissing contest between wealthy white boys trying to say the MOST EMPHATICALLY IN ALL CAPS THAT TAXATION IS SLAVERY is a new trend.

Does this make me Tumblr famous?

Also, huge shout out to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts RomneyCare for making sure my emergency room visit today only cost me $50.00.

The Seven Reasons Why Super-Rich British Tax Dodgers Don't End Up in Jail

Banking offshore isn’t, in itself, illegal. Luckily for some. Ronen Palan is Professor of International Politics at City University London and an expert in offshore tax havens. He told me that, if you were to wander into a hypothetical party in Mayfair and kick out everyone who banks offshore, the room would empty.

While tax evasion (cheating the tax authority by not declaring assets or misrepresenting information) is a criminal offense in the UK, tax avoidance (using a legal scheme to reduce your tax) is legal. A huge, lucrative industry is built around it.

HMRC claims (rightly) that prosecuting high-earning tax cheats is time-consuming and costly. Instead, it often comes to an arrangement out of court. However, the disparity between resources devoted to catching benefits cheats and wealthy tax dodgers is kind of conspicuous.

The Swiss leaks uncovered accounts belonging to an impressive line-up of high-profile figures, from the heads of royal families to top bods in business, film, and sport. Having an account in a Swiss bank isn’t illegal and doesn’t prove tax avoidance; however, given the shady dealings which have emerged at HSBC, it’s hard to believe that everyone’s hands are clean.

A 2014 report by the Equality Trust revealed that the poorest 10 percent of British households pay eight percent more of their income in all taxes than the richest; 43 percent compared to 35 percent. And that’s before tax avoidance schemes have been taken into account. What the rich fail to put in, the rest of the country must cover in taxes like income tax and VAT.

According to lawyers, if UK bankers misbehaved in Switzerland, they can’t be prosecuted here unless they advised clients on UK soil, which, according to Panorama, they may have done. But how aggressively will they be pursued? Richard Brooks—former tax inspector, Private Eye writer, and author of The Great Tax Robbery—believes the answer is: not very.

The UK has the longest tax code in the world. It’s more than 17,000 jargon-packed pages long, loophole after glorious loophole. There is probably no one on the planet who understands our tax code in its entirety.

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With the Federal Communications Commission set to vote on strong net neutrality rules this Thursday, the opposition is getting increasingly shrill, and their favorite talking point—a false one—is that it’s going to raise your taxes

"Stop the federal internet takeover!" That’s the warning that Sen. Mike Lee blasted out to readers of conservative email lists last month. “This is essentially a massive tax increase on the middle class, being passed in the dead of night without the American public really being made aware of what is going on,” wrote the Utah Republican. “New taxes and fees” could total “$15 billion annually,” Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, claimed in an op-ed. It’s “Obamacare for the internet,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) hollered.

That false talking point comes from a discredited analysis of the issue by a group called the Progressive Policy Institute that claims that the option the FCC plans to take on net neutrality, reclassifying it under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, could cost American consumers up to $15 billion annually. The claim has been debunked by internet advocates and traditional media fact-checkers alike, as relying on “fuzzy math” and “significant factual error[s].”

But it still gets traction, including at The New York Times, as Media Matters points out. The Times “Bits” blog, which really should know better, repeated the debunked claim in a post last week, even while it included a statement from FCC spokesperson Kim Hart that Wheeler’s plan “‘does not raise taxes or fees. Period.’”

The reality is that the FCC can and probably will “declare that broadband is a purely interstate telecom service,” as Free Press explains. “Because broadband access is interstate and not intrastate, none of the intrastate taxes or special telecom fees would apply.” States could impose a sales tax on interstate telecom services, but that’s just about the only tax that could apply here, and it would be a maximum of about $4 billion, nationally, as opposed to $15 billion. But the FCC and Congress could both take action to eliminate any extra taxes.

This worst-case and not-going-to-happen, not to mention debunked, tax scenario is the only argument Republicans and their telecom overlords have to fight the massive groundswell for net neutrality. But they’re going to press it as hard as they can in the coming months.

Please, help us protect all that we’ve built with this amazing campaign. Call your members of Congress today urging them to “Let the FCC do its job” to create net neutrality rules and protect an open internet.

Can’t call? Sign and send a petition to your member of Congress: Don’t kill net neutrality.

h/t: Laura Clawson at Daily Kos

Every business Al Sharpton has owned closed due to failure to comply with tax laws

For somebody who likes to talk a lot about rich people “paying their fair share,” Al “Resist We Much” Sharpton sure has a big problem with paying his own. 

from National Review:

So far, every for-profit enterprise started by Al Sharpton and known to National Review Online has been shut down in at least one jurisdiction for failure to pay taxes, a review of public records in New York and Delaware reveals.
Records show that Sharpton’s beleaguered for-profit entities often overlap and intertwine, some sharing ties with the reverend’s nonprofit organization, National Action Network. Their financial records are copious, confusing, and sometimes outright bizarre, and together, they depict persistent financial woes for Sharpton, who also personally owes New York State nearly $596,000, according to active tax warrants.
“He clearly appears — based on the information that’s available to us — to have a history of noncompliance with tax obligations,” says Bernadette Schopfer, the director of taxation at New York’s Maier Markey & Justic, a certified public-accounting firm that has had no dealings with Sharpton or National Action Network. “It appears that [Sharpton] does not file [taxes for his businesses], and then opens up something else. At all the entities we see he has opened up, he has not been compliant with the obligations of the owner of a business… . He’s either willful in his behavior, or he’s just sloppy.”

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Currently, Al Sharpton makes millions by threatening to label businesses as racists if they don’t donate to his “non-profit” organization. According to the New York Times, Sharpton owes $4.5 million in back taxes