Georgia lawmaker proposes ‘Netflix Tax’

Dallas, Texas/ United States - 05/10/2018: (Photograph of Netflix logo on computer screen)

There is a fresh push underway to tax Netflix and other streaming services, e-books, video game downloads and other digital products that are currently untaxed in Georgia.

Similar attempts in the past, known usually as the “Netflix tax,” found pushback with unhappy constituents back home. But a north Georgia lawmaker said Tuesday that he thinks it is time to face the reality that these digital goods are well established now and should receive the same tax treatment as their hard-copy predecessors.

“If I buy a book on my phone, I don’t pay tax on that book, but if I go to Barnes and Noble, who is paying property taxes in my community, then I am paying taxes,” said Rep. Kasey Carpenter, a Dalton Republican.

“While I’m not a big fan of raising taxes and I’d love to talk about an income tax cut, I think it’s important that we’re taxing things at the same level,” he said.

Rep. Kasey Carpenter’s proposal would extend the sale and use tax to include digital purchases, and would pump about $100 million into the state’s coffers and raise another $90 million for local governments. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

Carpenter said his proposal, which would extend the sale and use tax to include these purchases, would pump about $100 million into the state’s coffers and raise another $90 million for local governments.

The bill was filed Monday at the Georgia House and received a public hearing Tuesday afternoon. The legislation has already drawn opposition from AT&T, which owns HBO Max. Kevin Curtin, a lobbyist for AT&T, said the proposal singles out streaming services while letting a service like satellite continue to go untaxed.

“These services are prevalent today and have really been a lifesaver for a lot of people during the pandemic, quite frankly, getting through the pandemic with some things to watch on television as you’re confined to your home,” Curtin told lawmakers.

Carpenter pointed to a tax measure that proved prescient last year after lawmakers hurried to pass a bill requiring third-party online vendors like Etsy.com to collect sales tax. That took effect last April just as Georgians moved most of their shopping online early in the pandemic.

And it appears Carpenter and others will also get an opportunity to talk about a small income tax break this session that would cost the state about $120 million and save a married couple filing jointly about $100, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Rep. Shaw Blackmon, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, filed a bill Monday that would increase the standard income tax deduction in Georgia.

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