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British Government Considers Tax on Computers

CowboyNeal posted more than 9 years ago | from the taxman-cometh dept.

The Almighty Buck 638

Jumbo Jimbo writes "A story in the UK Times talks about the UK government's proposals to tax personal computers, as a replacement for the television license currently paid by every household with a TV. These are proposals and aren't intended for a few years yet, but due to the growth of computer ownership, this would probably amount to a tax on nearly everybody. Hope it's not per computer, or those people with a pile of old 286s in the shed could be in for a shock."

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Hmmm (5, Informative)

gowen (141411) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842628)

I know its better than old news, but are you aware that this is just one of many possible schemes, and that none of them are due to take effect before 2017.

Re:Hmmm (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842647)

I know its better than old news, but are you aware that this is just one of many possible schemes, and that none of them are due to take effect before 2017.

That's probably why the OP says British Government considers these schemes, and they aren't intended for a few years yet.

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842673)

But they've probably considered a lot of other schemes, many of which were rejected out of hand. It'snot really news.

Re:Hmmm (4, Funny)

onion2k (203094) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842682)

I'd wager a large sum that there'll be no new tax per se, but the television license will be changed to say you need one if you have "any device capable of receiving programme broadcasts". By 2017 that'll include your brain. Maybe.

Re:Hmmm (2, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842698)

"any device capable of receiving programme broadcasts"
That's already the law (you need one for a PC with a TV card). I imagine they'll just redefine "broadcast" to cover webcasts.

Re:Hmmm (4, Insightful)

FinestLittleSpace (719663) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842747)

Nope, the law is if you're USING the device to recieve broadcasts. IF you're using it for other purposes (Camcorder, DVD player etc) you don't have to pay.

Re:Hmmm (1)

szlevente (705483) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842699)

Ok, suppose something like that takes effect in 2017. Then, they'll have to deal with another issue. What IS a computer? With so many smart gadgets around, that won't be an easy question to answer. Even your fridge or microwave will be a computer by then! It'll have a microprocessor, memory, network connection, display...so, will they tax everything starting with your wristwatch and ending with your PDA?

Re:Hmmm (1)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842761)

>What IS a computer?

This is why the proposals as they stand don't have a hope of becoming reality. I think the suggestion that "broadcast" should be redefined is better, and could actually be a good thing, as it might legitimise the use of p2p for watching TV (an area where, right now, the UK leads the world).

Re:Hmmm (3, Insightful)

TiggsPanther (611974) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842709)

...and that none of them are due to take effect before 2017.

Good. Another 12 years before I risk trying to evade certain taxes.

I'm sorry, but on this one they can go jump. VAT already means that over a hundred quid of a decent computer goes towards absolutely nothing to do with the manufacture or sale fo the actual equipment. That's more than the cost of some of the components, and almost as much as a retail copy of Windows.

Yes, I know that governments have to get their money somewhere. It just seems wrong to me that, for example, if going for a 12" iBook with a 60GB drive, 512MB RAM and Bluetooth module the cost of the upgrades is 3GBP less than the cost of the tax incurred.
(And that's with upgrades that some people class as being overpriced compared to third-party alternatives)

Re:Hmmm (5, Interesting)

geordie_loz (624942) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842782)

I can see where they are coming from with this. I think that there are good reasons for this. There should not be an extra tax per-se, but the TV Licence to cover computers too would be a good thing overall. There may well be people who have computers and no TV, so that's increased revenue. If the BBC recieved revenue from another stream then their production will have to reflect that too.

Ultimately this means that for my TV License fee the BBC will have to provide internet streams of those programs in a free and open way (ala direc codec?). This is pretty good, the BBC already make most stuff available (Radio) for the week after broadcast, and have some channels internet streamed (News 24), so a license fee would likely bring more of this.

I pay for the BBC already, so expanding it to my computer (where I actually access it most) is fine by me.

Re:Hmmm (1)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842710)

Silly person, your talking about a government and a way of raising money through taxes. They are of course willing to push this ahead if "need be".
A spokeswoman for the Department for Culture said that it was not worried for now, but insiders said that the department would act if internet viewing took off.
Never underestimate a government looking for a new source of revenue, especially when they see the old as losing potential.

you see (-1, Offtopic)

illuminatedwax (537131) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842632)

You see, this is why we rebelled. None of these stupid namby-pamby taxes.

Re:you see (0, Offtopic)

TheOldFart (578597) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842662)


You see, this is why we rebelled. None of these stupid namby-pamby taxes.

You are right. Only billions spent on a war that provides us nothing while ours schools have no money to educate our kids. Indeed this all makes sense to me now...

Re:you see (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842676)

There was no reason to post your bitching in reply to him. He was being funny, and your whining is completely unrelated.

Re:you see (1)

El Torico (732160) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842716)

Only billions spent on a war that provides us nothing while ours schools have no money to educate our kids. Indeed this all makes sense to me now...

Of course it makes sense. What do you think the Modern Oligarchy depends upon? Well educated people have more to lose and are less likely to take risky or low-wage (or both) employment.

Be a realist.

Yep, we sure did. (3, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842686)

We fought against taxation without representation. Now, we have representation without enough taxation (at least for our level of of spending). Makes me think about the line in the patriot when MG says, "A king 1000's of miles away can do as much as 1000 kings 1 mile away" (or something like that).

Re:Yep, we sure did. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842740)

We fought against taxation without representation.

And now you label those who fight against it "terrorists". I'm referring to the Iraqis who object to your occupying their country and siphoning off all their oil revenues into American bank accounts - which I'm charitably describing as taxation rather than theft.

Re:you see (2, Insightful)

IonPanel (714617) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842730)

Actually at the time of the revolution in the United States British taxes were lower, in fact, were almost non-existent. This is why the capitalist businessmen in the eastern states launched the Boston Tea Party and "No taxation without representation" - because they could not compete with better, cheaper British imports. Thus began the current United States - capitalism without a real principle of fair competition.

Re:you see (2, Insightful)

ErroneousBee (611028) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842767)

For 'Businessmen' read "Smugglers" [countrystudies.us] .

Smuggling was big in England too, with the fortunes of some modern day companies being founded on smuggling, Avery being one of them.

Re:you see (1)

paullush (767354) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842790)

Welcome to a Labour government - one that has taxed the hell out of us over the last 7 years, most of it by stealth. This is just another way for Labour to screw up.

Total conjecture (5, Informative)

tom taylor (610506) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842633)

There is so much conjecture and guess work in this, that I don't know where to start. The BBC has only just had its charter renewed for the next 10 years, so imagining what will happen after that is total guess work.

Cue.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842634)

Cue the swarms of BBC zealots telling everyone else in the U.K. why they should be forced to fund the BBC whether they use it or not.

Wait.. hold on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842635)

Isn't the reasoning for the television tax to pay for the BBC, since people who own televisions get utility from the BBC?

And now they're going to start taxing computers, because people are using computers instead of the BBC?

That's fucked up.

nope (1)

doodlelogic (773522) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842669)

Presumably the reasoning is that people are using "computers" to access the BBC.

Re:Wait.. hold on (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842679)

No, they're saying that broadcast television is likely to give way to internet delivered content, and so it makes no sense to charge those people using TVs, and let Internet users have access to the content for free. Even now, I use the BBC's online resources far more than I watch their television shows. By 2017 (the earliest these plans are expected to be enacted), I very much doubt I will still own a television as a stand-alone device.

To Pay For Knighting Bill? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842636)

is this to retroactively pay for all the food at Bill Gates Nighting Reception? :p

Hard to enforce (2, Informative)

CdBee (742846) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842638)

unless they'll levy the tax on components as well they can hardly prevent me from building my own, it'd be difficult to implement on eBay as well.

Re:Hard to enforce (2, Informative)

womullan (764729) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842661)

They enforce tv license by visiting to see if you have a tv . They dont care if its home made or where you got it. mmm guess that means you have to pay a license even on stolen TVs :)

Re:Hard to enforce (1)

makomk (752139) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842728)

Retailers are also required to record your address and send it in to TV Licensing if you buy a TV, but I think they basically assume anyone without a license is likely to be breaking the law. Anyone with no TV can expect a lots of visits to check.

Re:Hard to enforce (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842769)

Depends who the retailer is. Many don't do this or anything like it especially if you buy on the 2nd hand market.

As for other poster: They have no right on entry AFAIK, but can ask about equipment on the premises. A computer tax is completely unenforcable and would be so unpopular as to damage the credibility of the government of the day...hmm...not that that seems to matter much these days, but it would be a nonsense and there would millions (literally) of computers that would simply not be taxed at all, making the scheme a total joke.

Of course they'd propose it... (2, Insightful)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842639)

...When TVs are becoming replaced by computers as a method of visual communication. It's far easier to live without a TV than a computer now, and they know that. So much for the people protesting the tax by not using a TV, if this goes through.

Re:Of course they'd propose it... (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842666)

The tax should (if implented) be for the TV Tuner card component only.

Otherwise, the computer is just another private box.

Re:Of course they'd propose it... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842708)

No. The license plan is intended for a time when broadcast television has been superseded by Internet-delivered content. The BBC are currently testing delivery of TV content over the Internet (most of their Radio stuff is available for download for about a month after release). If it becomes as popular as expected, then most of their content is likely to become available for download. Currently, most of the BBC's content (most by creation cost, that is) is delivered by broadcast RF signals which can be decoded as video images. If you own a device that can receive these, (TV, or TV tuner card), you need a license, the money from which is used to fund the creation of said content. If most of the content is delivered via the Internet, then it makes no sense to expect people who own a TV to pay for it.

Oh, and it seems more likely that the license fee will be for an Internet connection, rather than for a computer.

Re:Of course they'd propose it... (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842775)

I have read about the online library of content, and thought about how good it could be.
However, it is not a broadcast medium. It may be fine for sifting through and watching what you need, but doesn't help the folks who want to just sit back and relax.

Standard tvs (whether analog or digital) aren't going to be totally replaced anytime soon (still LOTS of folks who watch, but dont own computers).

I can see the license changing to include a portion about computer access to the library for users with a license (put in code from license to access high bandwidth stuff), but a total internet connection tax would be OTT.

I don't personally watch much TV, my usual access point is the main BBC radio station, its my kids that love the beebies tv channel.
I like having the BBC around, and tbh as long as the quality remained, I would continue "subscribing" to them whatever the rules.

Anyways :) thanks for the clarifications to my original post.

Saw this yesterday (2, Informative)

tezza (539307) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842640)

also see The Register [theregister.co.uk]

Not mooted until 2017 currently. The playing field will be a lot different by then, so it may be moved forward.

I would expect the fees would be a lot lower than the £120 TV licence currently in place. PC users would not be accessing BBC content 24/7.

Re:Saw this yesterday (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842792)

Thanks for the link:

The Times reports that a legal loophole means consumers could watch television or listen to radio over the net without having to pay a license fee, leaving the BBC with a funding shortfall that could run into the millions.

Yeah but this is the whole problem of state funded TV and illustrates ministers takling it from the wrong angle. The licence fee is a concept from the past and simply must be abolished. It is unjust, unfair and dated. Looking for ways to replace the licence fee in the future is absurd and completely wrong.

In the end the BBC will just have to accept advertising like everyone else and work on a level playing field.

I for one won't be accepting any form of PC tax, and I have no doubt many others won't either.

Not convinced (4, Insightful)

Richie1984 (841487) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842643)

I'm a big fan of the BBC's independence, and also of the license fee to pay for it, therefore I would like to continue seeing the BBC funded by the taxpayer for the forseeable future. Saying that, I'm not entirely convinced that a computer tax is the right way to go about this.

If you buy a television, you're pretty likely to be watching tv shows on it, and therefore the license fee seems like a good idea. With PCs, the scope of activity is pretty much unlimited, so I can't really see the connection between computers and BBC funding. Although, this may all change in the future as no-one really yet knows how television will eventually integrate with computers. All we can do is speculate.

Re:Not convinced (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842678)

There is no need to make a general connection between television viewing and PC/broadband usage since it is trivial to provide _subscription_ _only_ access for streams. A PC poll tax would be totally unacceptable - though if you claim the current licence fee system is equitable to all you probably deserve it.

That's it! (1)

Laurentiu (830504) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842646)

I'm getting a Linux-powered microwave!

Re:That's it! (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842688)

That is funny but what about owning an Xbox? and connecting it to a normal monitor?. It theoretically has all the abilities as a computer but it is a Gaming Console isnt it?

Or maybe by that date I will be able to surf the net and run Winamp Shoutcast with my cell phone so will they have to "tax" any device?

Fair point actually (5, Insightful)

mccalli (323026) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842715)

Not to anaylse a joke too deeply but...

If I am to be taxed for ownership of a PC, with the grounds being that I can use this to access BBC-produced broadcasts, then I better actually had be able to access that content.

In other words, that content has to be accessible on a Mac, on Linux (any distro, my choice), on a PC, on some wondeful-but-yet-to-be-conceived-of OS that gets written in 2009...anything. If they're taxing me for it, then I must be able to receive the benefit the tax is actually on.

Incidently, I'm not opposed to the license fee (I'm in the UK). I believe my money to be well spent on the Beeb, though not necesasrily on television so much as radio and the internet.

Cheers,
Ian

Re:Fair point actually (2, Insightful)

Laurentiu (830504) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842764)

Jokes aside, here's some facts:

1) If you want to put license fees on PCs, put them directly on the TV-cards. I'm using my computer for programming, haven't started my TV in months (although I own one) and I don't forsee mainboards with integrated TV tuners in the near future. So why should I pay this fee?

2) If BBC - or any other television station for that matter - will start making shows available for free as BitTorrents, for instance, I "could" be persuaded to pay said fee. Although it would make more sense to pay it together with your ISP subscription - where ISPs are seen (from a legal point of view) as cable companies. Frankly, I don't know why BBC doesn't do it; they don't get revenue from commercials, so that reason is out, and I'd really REALLY love to be able to see shows like Coupling or The Office available online - even for a nominal fee.

3) Mobile providers started to offer TV on the cells. This could be a tricky one - you could tax a TV-capable (*sigh*) phone, and the buyer would decide if he wants it or not, or you could treat mobile providers as cable companies (see above).

Bottom line: PCs can't be taxed for what they "could" do. There is a decent way to check what they're actually capable of doing, and tax according to that. And this would neatly prevent, for instance, universities from paying stupid taxes on lab computers - or, God forbid, on that new Beowulf cluster - and CowboyNeal would be able to bring with him all the 286 he wants when he moves to UK.

Re:That's it! (1)

TractorBarry (788340) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842779)

You'll probably be interested in one of these then:

LG "Internet Ready" Microwave Oven [ebuyer.com]

Mind the extra Slashdot spaces there kids ! or, if the link above doesn't work, go to www.ebuyer.co.uk [ebuyer.co.uk] and type "85801" in the search box to find it !

Don't know if you can get it to run Linux though ;)

Snout in the Trough (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842649)

The BBC have their snout in the trough - and greedy pigs don't like to be disturbed.

Twats. (0, Troll)

skinfitz (564041) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842653)

See subject.

Paying for a service? (1)

ponchietto (718083) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842655)

Tax on televisions could be justified as a service fee (You pay BBC progams). But for cumputers what is the service you are paying for? And i do not like regressive taxation. In my country (Italy) it is uncostitutional. (and governments ignores that routinely, but that is another matter...) Excuse my horrible english.

VAT (1)

Ford Prefect (8777) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842658)

Grumble grumble already paying 17.5% VAT on anything and everything with a transistor in grumble grumble computer prices already terribly high in the UK grumble grumble... ;-)

If the issue is that people will one day (heh) be able to watch the telly thanks to broadband internet at home, why not have a small but compulsory licence fee on home internet connections? It's not like conventional TV where any old bit of wire can pick up the transmissions, you'd need a suitably authorised ISP and whatever to connect to the giant BBC media servers, and people can easily opt out by, um, not using broadband. Or something!

Re:VAT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842694)

The BBC can sell subscriptions to it's services rather than trying to produce yet another poll tax.

Re:VAT (1)

coolcold (805170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842772)

what's more
why not open the bloody tv license for commercial
this would not only produce a challenge so we can get better quality tv, it will also reduce to a subscription fee base so you pay if you want to watch

I don't see why I have to pay BBC even if i never watch their program/news. Please take away those old stupid rules

I don't watch TV on my computer (1)

Dr.Opveter (806649) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842660)

The games i play on my computer have nothing to do with TV that BBC broadcasts.

Fuck off. (-1, Troll)

rokzy (687636) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842667)

I paid a tax on all my computer stuff. it's called VAT.

this isn't like TVs where you pay a license to receive BBC etc. the government gives me fuck all wrt computing.

so unless they're about to implement free wifi throughout the country they can fuck right off.

Re:Fuck off. (1)

eyeye (653962) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842754)

And you pay tax on the money you earned that you used to buy the computer stuff :-)

We are taxed to the hilt wherever possible, this isnt that unusual.


the government gives me fuck all wrt computing.


and the billions they get from stamp duty, tax on petrol etc. etc. dont get you anything back in those areas either.

If you bear in mind that you are supposed to pay tax on chip fat you have converted to diesel fuel then you will realise there is nothing unusually bizarre in taxing computers.

The reason there are so many taxes is to hide the true amount we spend in taxes, if the common man realised how much they are really paying in taxes there would be an uprising.

Still I suppose we have entire generations of benefit claimants to support who cant be arsed working and other small costs like billions spent to kill foreigners, the money has to come from somewhere.

Detecting them? (1)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842668)

ER?

Im not a specialist in this, but HOW are they going to know if you have computers, apart from actually coming into your house and checking?

With TV's its pretty simple, you have this massive aerial plus they can pick up signals off your TV (or so they claim), does anyone know if PC's give off any types of signal like this?

And if they do come in? Well, im repairing these old pc's for friends and family, i dont OWN any of them.
Same way a PC repair man doesn't need a TV licence for his shop (unless of course hes broadcasting the TV to the shoppers).

Re:Detecting them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842700)

Prediction: They won't tax computers (it's a nonsense idea)... they'll tax an internet connection because that can be tied directly to a household (well, ok, you can hook onto someone elses router, but then you can watch TV over someone elses shoulder).

Re:Detecting them? (2, Interesting)

Ford Prefect (8777) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842702)

With TV's its pretty simple, you have this massive aerial plus they can pick up signals off your TV (or so they claim), does anyone know if PC's give off any types of signal like this?

Try using an FM radio near a PC, and scan through the frequencies. All sorts of buzzing, shrieking, farting and so on can be picked up - some of the fun harmonics chatter and clunk as the screen updates or the hard disk is accessed.

On my old Atari ST, I could even tune into the sound chip, and listen to whatever it was playing at the other side of the room. And I wondered why it was called a 104.0 ST FM...

Admittedly, TV detector vans are mostly a myth, and this proposed 'computer tax' is about as realistic - but do read up on Tempest radiation [wikipedia.org] - they'd have plenty of signals to play with if they wanted to. ;-)

Re:Detecting them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842704)

Same way they check on TVs - continually harass you if you say you haven't got one and ask for a home visit from one of their staff.

Re:Detecting them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842713)

According to Ross Anderson in Security Engineering, it's as trivial to pick up signals from CRT and TFT computer screens as it is from TV screens.

Ithika.

Re:Detecting them? (1)

WasterDave (20047) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842714)

you have this massive aerial plus they can pick up signals off your TV (or so they claim)

They can indeed. Whether or not they actually do, as opposed to the singularly cheap option of just assuming everyone has a telly, is a matter of some debate.

Dave

Re:Detecting them? They can't (1)

JackJudge (679488) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842774)

The so called detector vans were a myth cooked up a few decades ago, but one that endured.
What detection technology they did have picked up such a wide range of devices (CB radios, microwave ovens etc) that they were technically useless.
So the Beeb chose a more dracionian approach, they operated under the assumption that all households would have a TV set and so they must all pay the license fee. When an address came up on their system that didn't have a paid fee or a license due to expire, they sent round warning letters about inspectors patrolling your area intimidating folks into paying the fee or facing a £1000 fine.
I don't really like the BBC and resent having to pay a full license fee for the fraction of a percentage of their services I occasionally use, but I can the need for a public service broadcasting system free of advertisements.
Gotta tell ya though, the full size matt black posters with white bold text saying you *will* get caught, they even list names and postcodes of people who've been caught, are very sinister, very 1984ish.

Taxes and their use... (1)

hnile_jablko (862946) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842670)

I don't see any relevant application of the tax unless they plan to offer free internet, etc. I think they would be better served to tax other things.. such as each tube ticket and use the money to hire henchmen wjo would force those lazy twats on the tube to work rather than strike when the tea room at earl's court is not up to snuff.

Re:Taxes and their use... (1)

ivano (584883) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842718)

well maybe that is a good idea. You pay the tax and you get free (probably by then) wireless. of course, it might be a good idea to start implementing this scheme [theregister.co.uk] too.

Ciao

Define "computer". (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842677)

It's going to be interesting to see what a computer precisely is. PCs and laptops are obvious, but how about a dreambox or divx-player or wifi accesspoint running linux or something similar? A firewall appliance? How about a Xbox or a Playstation? Is a subnotebook a computer? A PDA? A smartphone?

No sir, I don't own a computer. Just a cluster of appliances. :-)

Re:Define "computer". (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842701)

I thought this would be a problem too. Mod up, it's exactly the sort of problem these idiots overlook.

Re:Define "computer". (2, Insightful)

makomk (752139) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842738)

It's going to be interesting to see what a computer precisely is. PCs and laptops are obvious, but how about a dreambox or divx-player or wifi accesspoint running linux or something similar? A firewall appliance? How about a Xbox or a Playstation? Is a subnotebook a computer? A PDA? A smartphone?

Not to mention stuff like internet-connected fridges - an internet connection tax, like one AC mentioned, is more likely. Except that most new mobile phones can connect to the Net, even if they can't display webpages...

That's it! (1)

nate nice (672391) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842681)

Time to throw all your computers into the ocean in protest of this tax! Get ready for the revolution and be ready to attack on Christmas....when they least suspect it! To glorious battle we go!

"Let me tell you how it will be" (2, Funny)

dosius (230542) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842684)

"Here's one for you, nineteen for me"

</GEORGEHARRISON>

Moll.

Note for Americans (0, Troll)

kahei (466208) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842687)


This is how British politics works. In the UK, there is a knee-jerk reaction to like more taxes, however unfair and unwise, just as in the US there is an automatic tendency to like tax cuts, however unfair and unwise.

This is because UK people are brought up to feel warm and fuzzy when they think they are paying for 'public services', a 'social safety net', 'community infrastructure' and so on. Similarly, in the US people tend to feel warm and fuzzy when they think they are 'protecting their property', 'competing in a free market', etc.

The net result is that when a government needs to generate some positive buzz in the UK it talks about _extra_ taxes. I initially had a hard time believing this, but then a couple of years ago the UK govt imposed this absolutely HUGE tax hike for the benefit of 'health'. Everyone I knew who was not English reacted normally, ie they were horrified that yet more of their money would be stolen without them getting anything in return. But everyone I know who was English was actively happy, they felt reassured that it was a return to socialism and all for the public good and everything would be just fine. It was utterly weird.

A few years on, the health service here is still... well, you need private health insurance if you don't want to wind up with teeth like the English. And paying for health twice is not a small thing. But the warm fuzzy 'I am contributing to the greater good!' feeling among the English people remains.

And that, patient reader, is why we see this white paper being released playfully suggesting a tax on PCs. It has nothing to do with actual plans -- it's just to create a socialist sort of atmosphere and thus a warm fuzzy feeling.

Honesty compels me to point out that most societies have something like this effect.

Re:Note for Americans (5, Interesting)

Ford Prefect (8777) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842726)

This is how British politics works. In the UK, there is a knee-jerk reaction to like more taxes, however unfair and unwise, just as in the US there is an automatic tendency to like tax cuts, however unfair and unwise.

British counter-example. [caliach.com]

Re:Note for Americans (3, Insightful)

TwistedSquare (650445) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842741)

I feel I should comment on some of your points... the reason that tax cuts are not reviled is not so much the warm fuzzy feeling, as the feeling that this money should make public services better. There is an understanding that you get what you pay for, and if the NHS (for example) is underfunded, then to make it better we need to fund it more. Because we can understand where the money is going, we feel (perhaps naively) that the tax rise is acceptable.

Of course this generalisation applies more to the left than to the right, but then the left are in power at the moment... The Tories still try to win votes with tax cuts, but interestingly these days they focus on choice. As you note, tax cuts are not as popular as they once were. I would suggest this is because people realise that taking money away from public services is hardly going to improve them, but that's just my feeling.

The public dental health issue is tricky, but for all other health areas the NHS is considering a lumbering dinosaur, but one that will still suffice for most people. Dental health is difficult because all the dentists are going private, and thus it is hard to actually find an NHS dentist. The quality of NHS dentists is considered by just about everyone to be equivalent to the quality of private, it's just the supply of them that is a problem.

The tax on PCs appears (I haven't RTFA) to be a possible replacement for the TV licence. If this is the case, it would not be a new tax - just moving an old one onto new technology.

Re:Note for Americans (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842743)

UK govt imposed this absolutely HUGE tax hike for the benefit of 'health'

Ah, that would be the National Health Service - you'll find many _civilised_ countries have them, perhaps that's why your unused to universal healthcare.

P.S. My teeth are pretty good, but your morality has a large area of significant decay.

Re:Note for Americans (2, Insightful)

badfish99 (826052) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842750)

Just for the benefit of any Americans who might be misled by this: none of the above is true. The English (and Scots and Welsh) will vote for the politician who promises the lowest taxes, just like anyone else.

But what we also like is getting stuff at a reasonably price instead of paying through the nose for it. That's why we tend to support the BBC (cheaper than US-style subscription TV channels, which we also have, despite the fact that there's no adverts) and the health service (no need for all that expensive insurance in case you get cancer and need to stay in hospital for 6 months).

Re:Note for Americans (2, Informative)

grandmofftarkin (49366) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842755)

Absolute rubbish! You just made this up. I live in the the UK and I don't know anyone who gets 'a warm fuzzy feeling' due to increased taxes.

Since I suspect you pulled this out or your arse perhaps you could link to some scientific study to backup your theory. If not then your theory is no more valid than mine. Mine being that people in the UK do not like tax increases.

Re:Note for Americans (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842766)

Interesting way of looking at it.

I've always thought it was to do with compromises. The government leaks a 'Tax On Computers' memo and all of us have that knee-jerk reaction. The media get its week's worth of stories. The media campaign to stop the new tax. They rally all the readers and tell them how they should think about the new tax. The government then leaks a compromise 'Tax On Calculators' tax memo and everyone is once again happy.

Mark parent down (2, Insightful)

BluhDeBluh (805090) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842773)

Mainly because the OP is full of shit. People don't "like" tax rises, however if a service is seen to be doing particularly badly at a time (see: the NHS) people will accept tax rises despite grumbling. There is also the fact that the NHS isn't that bad, and hasn't the cost of "health insurance" risen by a huge amount in the US recently?

Also, in the UK, most people don't go the private route, even though it's avaliable for them.

A tax on PCs is probably one of the suggestions so that people go "OMG" and then they throw it out favouring a less controversial suggestion (lets keep the TV licence) etc.

A realistic option. But currently *households* (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842689)

It should be noted that current licence is effectively based around *households* if I remember rightly. You buy a licence, it doesn't matter how many TVs you've got in your house, they are all covered. I do believe though that when you buy a tv you are technically required to register it under your name and address still (old radio law?). However, if we are to assume that the BBC retains its status as the national broadcasting organisation, protected by law and financed by a licence fee, then it makes sense that they move away from a licence on TV sets. I think the slashdot crowd would agree with the BBC that the TV is not going to be the only device that people will use in future to receive AV broadcasting, so it is forward thinking of the BBC to move away from a model based around the TV. The question is therefore, what is the licence based on? individuals? devices? households? Of course we can step one step backwards and ask if a licence model is the way to go.

Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842717)

Well, we already pay a microsoft tax on every computer, so why not a government one? I mean, look at all the benefits the community gets from the Microsoft tax!

Re:Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842758)

Define "computer". As one of the posts above rightly mentions, a growing number of personal video/entertainment/data devices are computers as well.

Say I record a program on my TiVO-like device, then have the option of playing it on my MMC or wireless laptop. It's likely advanced phones/PDAs will have that wireless option sooner or later as well. How many "computers" will I be taxed for?

I'm a broadcaster too (1)

statistically dead (799464) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842719)

This will be bad news. If the BBC wants revenue it can encrypt and charge for *its own site*.

And what of the content I provide? Can I get a rebate on the tax by setting up my own website and providing content (or will internet broadcast licences be introduced as well?).

Some perspective (5, Insightful)

nagora (177841) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842720)

This story should read: "a mid-grade civil servant in the UK's least powerful government department was asked to draw up a list of every possible way of funding the BBC. One of the two dozen or so ideas he and his friends came up with was that a tax covering any device that can display BBC programmes. This suggestion was then ignored by everyone except Rupert Murdoch who put it on the front page of his paper 'The Times' as a way of scaring people who will think this is unfair and therefore the BBC should be scrapped and leave the field to Sky (prop: Mr R. Murdoch)."

TWW

What would it include? (1)

squirel_dude (810037) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842729)

Would this computer tax cover anything with a microprocessor in it such as calculators, wristwatches, mobile phones, etc. as they are technically computers. And would it include old computers not capable of accessing the internet or server systems and networks?

Article summary (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842732)

The actual article is quite short and brief, but I condense it here to attempt to avoid questions answered in the article.

"THE BBC licence fee should be replaced by a tax on the ownership of a personal computer instead of a television, ministers said yesterday.

Tessa Jowell told the BBC that the licence fee would be retained for at least another ten years until 2017 in return for abolishing the Board of Governors. But the Culture Secretary conceded that technological advances would mean that a fee based on "television ownership could become redundant".

More than six million households have access to high-speed broadband connections and the BBC has begun experimenting with broadcasting video clips over the internet.

A legal loophole highlighted by the communications regulator Ofcom means that viewers could watch television and listen to radio over the internet and mobile devices free, potentially costing the BBC millions of pounds in licence fees.

The Dept for Culture, Media and Sport's Green Paper setting out the BBC's long-term future ... suggested "either a compulsory levy on all households or even on ownership of PCs as well as TVs". It said that technology might render it difficult to collect and enforce the fee.

Officially, the Government says that changes would not be needed until 2017,... but insiders said that the department would act if internet viewing took off.

Over the next few years, internet broadcasting is set to increase rapidly... The BBC already broadcasts all its radio stations over the internet, and [some TV too]

Ofcom predicts that more than half of Britain's households will be watching television over the internet by 2012. Other emerging technologies will allow television to be broadcast direct to mobile phones. [O2 aiming to test in 2007] ... ... ... /edited

This is my humble opinion (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842734)

THE FREAK [cnn.com] MUST PAY! THERE'S NO OTHER WAY!

Thankfully, the hot homemaker [cnn.com] is free again. I'd give almost anything to serve her as her personal sex-slave.

Go for it! (2, Funny)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842735)

Provided that the money raised goes into an education initiative to give Joe Bloke some government sponsored training into how to use his computer properly, I don't see a problem.

Even go a stage further and insist every household has to have someone with a PC use accreditation to be able to connect to the Internet.

As a computer geek, I'm sick and tired of having to endlessly fix the crappy Windows PCs of friends and relatives, I'm totally bored with spending time keeping my machines (both Linux and Windows ones) updated only to still have my Internet connection slow to a crawl every time the latest Windows worm hits and maybe the government can "sponsor" non-commercial citizens' web-sites so that I'm not constantly bombarded by banner ads and pop-ups every time I load a page in my browser.

UK Gov. can even go a stage further and send out a free Knoppix CD with each PC Tax registration form :-)

Random Debate, not laws in progress (5, Insightful)

POPE Mad Mitch (73632) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842737)

Incase anybody didn't notice, this comment was made as part of a general debate on possible loop holes and issues that might exist when the 10 year renewal is up, it was not part of any formal law or decision making process.

As an MP was rightly pointing out, there is a potential loophole where a household may not own any televisions at all, and only computers and monitors (without any tv tuner card, as thats already covered) through which they may be able to watch the increasing amount of tv programs the bbc make available over the internet, and thus avoid paying the tv license fee under the current rules.

its pretty obvious that someone is going to suggest 'tax all computers instead then' as a solution to that loop hole, it doesnt mean thats sensible or will ever be seriously considered, its just media sensationalism on an otherwise dull topic.

Re:Random Debate, not laws in progress (1)

Tanami (601011) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842771)

That loophole could surely be easily closed by ammending part 4 of the Communications Act 2003. Actually, I thought they'd already done that, but looking at the act now, it appears not:

http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2003 /3 0021--l.htm#368

Personally, I think the whole thing stinks currently, and do not and will not pay for a TV license. The idea that the BBC must produce content that is not commercially viable (and therefore would not otherwise exist) seems to have long since fallen by the wayside (with regards to television anyway, radio 4 is superb), and they now produce the same drivel you would find on ITV.

Not a bad idea. (1)

Singletoned (619322) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842742)

I can't really see that many people having a computer but no TV, but even so this isn't a bad idea.

They could just add a small percentage tax to the sale of all new computers, and use the funds raised to develop interesting projects like Westminster Wireless City [westminster.gov.uk] , or to start giving us proper broadband speeds (ie 10/100 Mbs) in London (obviously they shouldn't bother with any of this stuff in the North or the countryside).

Re:Not a bad idea. (1)

TiggsPanther (611974) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842768)

The problem with this is it would be sticking extra tax on computers on top of the VAT which, unless I'm very much mistaken, I'm not alone in wishing was reduced.

I always find the ex-VAT price to be pretty much what I want to pay. Granted lessening tax would probably not see an equivalent drop in prices but at least the money would be staying somewhere within the computer/sales industry. (It's the going outside that ticks me off)

I do think that retail prices would still stay kinda low to stop people feeling overcharged - but, to me, an increasing discrepancy between the pre-tax and post-tax prices makes me feel like I'm being ripped off.

tax on windows? (3, Informative)

migloo (671559) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842744)

Once upon a time in Europe, there used to be a tax on windows (they were considered a sign of wealth)

What does a TV licence give you? (5, Insightful)

Blowfishie (677313) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842748)

I grew up in the UK and enjoyed watching TV as most folk do. We'd mutter and grumble about the damn TV license and existence of detector vans, but paid for it and carried on with life.

I've since emigrated to Australia and here is where you see what effect the TV licence has: the BBC stations provide a benchmark of quality that the commercial stations have to match and they generally do. Well, compared to the Australian stations, they do.

Australian commercial stations treat the audience like a numbers game. They won't make a commitment to a series unless it keeps getting great ratings, and by 'commitment', I mean that they won't keep a series in prime time long enough for it to the story to mature and to catch on (examples: Farscape got booted to beyond midnight after about 4 episodes and you should have seen the backflip with The Sopranos series 4) or they'll decide to axe a show because the station owner doesn't like what he sees (example: Packer pulling the "Michallef" show because of a comment Michallef made).

They show movies, but intersperse them with so many adverts, animated station ID's, "what's next" scrolling banners and the like that you lose any sense of the 'magic' that a good movie can bring. Maybe British TV has gone to hell since I left, but I doubt it can be as bad as commercial Australian TV.

A solution for viewing sanity is the PVR and here's where I link back to the posted topic: by taxing PCs, the British government ministers are looking to the future (2017) when TVs are computers in their own right and internet broadcasting is a much, much bigger phenomenon. Provided that the tax keeps the quality of programming high, then you can't complain - the money is going where it should and you don't end up with a crappy viewing experience.

Tax on what? (1)

danalien (545655) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842752)

1st, Tax on owning a computer?, or owning a computer you could potentially use to watch BBC's internet broadcasting?
  • "
  • A legal loophole highlighted by the communications regulator Ofcom means that viewers could watch television and listen to radio over the internet and mobile devices free, potentially costing the BBC millions of pounds in licence fees"
... um, ... then close it down for the (whole) 'public' ... and stick to your paying users, the BBC have allready implemented, albeit only for international users. (eg. I from sweden can't watch all off BBCs internet broadcasting, with out 'registering'... : 2nd, If I don't use BBC's services .. why should I pay any (licence) fee? ... I know, it's hard to control with TVs, as they wheren't from the start built for that. But with todays computers, its a breeze in the park to implement. So maybe they ought to make it so that ppl can choose what they want, and pay for it. And not taxing all of a society for what they might choose not to use ... because some are still living in the 1900's ;-) (when the television started to come to life...)

Windows tax (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842759)

I thought that the Windows tax went out in 1851...

Self build? (1)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842762)

So if I build my own computer I don't pay? bring it on!!!!

Seriously though, they will need to ban self built computers if they wish to tax as many people as possible.

BBC programs on the net (1)

RedWizzard (192002) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842763)

From TFA:
A legal loophole highlighted by the communications regulator Ofcom means that viewers could watch television and listen to radio over the internet and mobile devices free, potentially costing the BBC millions of pounds in licence fees.
Um, so who's forcing the BBC to provide content for free on the net? And how is this justification for a tax on anyone who owns a computer, whether they use it to access BBC content or not? What about companies, do they have to pay? Surely it would make more sense for the BBC to simply starting charging for online content they feel they need to? That way they could get money out of non-British citizens accessing the content too.

Also in Belgium (1)

Spacelord (27899) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842777)

They're working on a similar proposal here in Belgium. They are actually considering a "copyright" tax of 40 euros per computer!! The money won't even benefit society, but will go straight to SABAM (the RIAA/MPAA equivalent in Belgium) This is outrageous and comes down to simple theft.

If this proposal becomes law, I will not buy a computer in Belgium anymore. I live close enough to the German and Dutch border so I'll just buy my equipment there.

For those interested, more info can be found here: http://geenpctaks.be/ [geenpctaks.be] (Sorry the page is in dutch, can't find an english translation)

If you are Belgian, please sign the petition against this proposal.

Same thing in Germany, (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842780)

only that it's about to start in 2007 in Germany.
See here. [slashdot.org]

Hang about (2, Informative)

chrisbeatty (811646) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842783)

I thought this was kind of covered already [tvlicensing.co.uk]

I don't know quite how they'd do this? I suppose they could tax TV cards at sale, or maybe they can detect the use of the receiving equipment as they currently do [tvlicensing.co.uk] . That said maybe they can pick up any CRT display device??

Better yet - a tax on Windows (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11842786)

It's been done before: http://www.longparish.org.uk/history/windowtax.htm

References to operating systems aside, the window tax is often cited as one of the worst examples of taxation in British history. You still see old buildings where the windows were bricked up, so the owners could pay less tax.

Taxing specific items is usually a bad idea: hard / expensive to enforce and fundamentally unfair. Better would be a tax which goes directly to the BBC like a "Public Information Services" tax.

Of course that might lead people to demand higher qualities from the BBC plus more say and accountability. That in itself might lead to a shift in perspective of the UK public from government being the masters to government being the servants and no politician wants that to happen.

Ultimately people need to wake up to the idea that http://www.theyworkforyou.com/

The implementation should be interesting (2, Informative)

eatmywake (858118) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842793)

"those people with a pile of old 286s in the shed could be in for a shock."

...and anyone with a calculator, washing machine, mobile phone...

The British? (0, Troll)

out of control (37531) | more than 9 years ago | (#11842797)

These are the same people that Knighted Billiam Gates right?

I rest my case.
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