Spam and Taxes

Spam and Taxes

... On the surface, taxing [Internet] spam is a wonderful idea. Spam clogs the Internet, wastes our time just deleting it and continues because it makes money since you only need a few people so gullible or addled that they believe some Nigerian wants to share $25 million with them or buying a pill will "enhance" a male organ.

The problem is that nobody has ever figured out how to make a spam tax work. As my oldest son, a nerdy middle-aged businessman computer geek, says: "How you going to collect it?"

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Even if someone solves the technological problem of how to collect a tax from the spammers, there would no doubt be a challenge that this is a tax on a right, the right to speech and publication.

Commercial speech is not political or religious speech, at least under American law, and so less protected by the First Amendment. Spam sometimes goes beyond commercial speech to be criminal speech, as the Economist Magazine reported six years ago in a piece about a Russian fraud ring and spam.

Blocking spam is in the news for another reason this week - the largest ever Denial of Service attack, launched by Cyberbunker, which says it will send out spam for anyone save child pornographers and terrorists. As The Economist showed, that can include fraudsters.

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View David Cay Johnston's opinion in its entirety on the taxanalysts® Blog.

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