The European Parliament's Committee on Budgets lead by Alain Lamassoure has floated the idea of levying a tax of 1.5 cent on every sms text, and tax of 0.00001 cent on every email. Lamassoure is quotes as saying "This is peanuts, but given the billions of transactions every day, this could still raise an immense income."
The European Union's budget is currently funded through a combination of duties, VAT and contribution by member states. The European Union currently works on the basis of a seven-year budget, with new funding proposals expected by 2008/2009. Calls for a byte tax is not new. The first major proposal for taxing electronic information was by Arthur Cordell in a 1994 Club of Rome report.
Proponents of the btye tax argue that such a tax will offset the erosion of traditional revenue collection as we all go online or that it is a new, low-impact tax that can be used for international development. Oponents of the byte tax argue the btye tax it would discourage electronic transmission of information; being counterproductive in that it burdens e-commerce and its productivity.
Since its inception, the internet has been at the centre of a taxation debate. The 1998 Internet Tax Freedom Act (formerly known as S.442)
was signed into law on October 21, 1998 by President Bill Clinton to bar state and local governments from taxing Internet access service and imposing discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce. Another debate currently taking place in the legislative halls of Washington is the issue of Net Neutrality.
Every form of taxation should be required to demonstrate substantial improvement in the communal welfare of citizens. If considered a "pay-to-send message" tax or "byte tax" should at least guarantee reduction of spam and security for the average consumer. While not widely used this solution already exists - as a voluntary cost as opposed to a mandatory tax- in the form of private services such Goodmail Systems that serve as a certification and validation for email senders.
Taxation of email to grow the coffers of governmental organisations is ill advised and will have minimal impact on consumers welfare when compared with much more pro-active environmental or green taxes.