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January 22 2016

The Download on Internet Taxation

Nicole Kurokawa Neily

A coalition of unlikely bedfellows across the political spectrum – including the Independent Women’s Forum – sent a letter to the Hill today on the issue of internet taxation (full coalition letter & organization names here, if you’re interested).

Opposing internet taxation is just common sense. After all, there’s a very good reason that people say “tax the things you want less of” – taxes add to the total cost, and the more expensive things are, the less people are likely to use them. Unfortunately, a handful of Senators – looking at you, Dick Durbin! – seem to have skipped that day of Econ 101, and are taking steps that would open the door to future taxation by states and municipalities.

(Sen. Durbin has been a longtime supporter of the misleadingly-titled Marketplace Fairness Act, and has asserted over the years that he believes that local retailers are at a competitive disadvantage to their online counterparts.)

Without a doubt, women would be hurt by an internet tax because on a number of levels, we use the internet to achieve a better work-life balance. If policymakers are considering collateral damage, they should take these aspects into account:

•    Online businesses. The internet has opened up new worlds of opportunity for people to work from home – many of whom are women. A July 2015 report by Etsy (the online craft retail clearinghouse) revealed that 86% of their sellers are women, noting “They are twice as likely to be young adults (under age 35) as other US business owners. Many are parents with children at home and 17% have household income under $25,000 annually. Nearly half (45%) had never sold their goods until they sold them on Etsy. By making it easy to buy and sell goods, Etsy makes entrepreneurship lower-risk and accessible for these populations.”

•    Students. A July 2015 survey of online students showed that the population skews heavily female; according to an article in US News & World Report, “At the undergraduate level, 70 percent of students were women. Among graduate students, 72 percent of students were female.” For women trying to balance the demands of raising a family, the flexibility that an online degree offers means that women no longer have to make an either/or choice, but rather that they can do both on a timeframe (and in a location) that works for them. In addition, homeschooling families have additional resources like the Khan Academy at their fingertips. Universities like Yale, Harvard, and even my beloved University of Illinois offer free online courses, making more education more available to more people than ever before. Pretty amazing!

•    Consumers of online purchases. As a working mother of two children under 3, the ability to order goods like diapers, groceries, and birthday presents has made life so much easier. No late-night convenience store runs… a few taps on my phone and I’m all set with a delivery the next day! And for people with mobility issues or the elderly, the ability to have goods delivered is a lifesaver.

A December 2015 consumer survey found that 56% of people had less than $1000 combined in their savings and checking accounts. Millions of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, and increasing a utility bill by a few dollars means that something else has to be cut from the monthly budget. As we at IWF have noted for years, women manage family budgets, and are acutely aware of the sacrifices that must be made.

A permanent ban on internet access taxes is a bipartisan issue, because it’s good politics and good policy.

 

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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