A new poll released Wednesday finds the overwhelming majority of Americans support a permanent ban on taxing Internet access.
According to a Harris Poll commissioned by the conservative lobbying group National Taxpayers Union (NTU), four out of five Americans, or 83 percent, agree that Congress should uphold and make permanent the ban on taxing Internet access in place since 1998.
“According to the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA), governments across the country are banned from taxing Internet access, but the ban expires later this year,” the poll told respondents. “Given this information, how much do you agree or disagree that Congress should continue [i.e., make permanent] the ban on taxing Internet access?”
Harris and NTU found broad bipartisan support for permanently enacting the ban in Republican and Democratic states across all four major regions in the U.S., where 80 percent and above support the Internet Tax Freedom Act.
The bill prohibits state and local governments from taxing access to bundled Internet services like cable broadband and DSL. It would also close a loophole in the 1998 law that allows states including Texas, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Mexico, Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota, already taxing Internet access at the time of passage to continue doing so.
The same support crosses the age divide, with 87 percent of Americans 55 and over expressing support for the ban, and 79 percent of Americans ages 18-34 agreeing.
Harris conducted the poll over three days in January with participation from 2,057 American adults ages 18 and over.
“The poll numbers line up with what NTU has been hearing from members of all ages across the country: taxing Internet access is unfair, unnecessary, and counterproductive,” the president of NTU Pete Sepp said in a press release Wednesday. “Piling an additional tax on top of all the other taxes and regulations for which hard-working Americans are already paying is never a good idea.”
More than 40 conservative, minority, women’s and tech groups similarly came together last month to petition Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle to adopt the bill, currently rolled into the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act customs bill awaiting a vote in the upper chamber.
Signees of the letter to Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid urged lawmakers not to lump the bill with legislation granting states the power to charge sales tax on online purchases from retailers without a physical location inside state borders.
The tied proposal, supported by Reid, Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and others stalled the permanent ban during multiple legislative sessions in the past, resulting in seven short-term extensions including in the latest omnibus package passed in December, set to expire later this year.
A separate bipartisan coalition insists on passing the largely uncontroversial ITFA on its own as opposed to using it as a vehicle to pass the more controversial sales tax legislation. The House has already passed its version of ITFA.
“While we are encouraged to see that people across the country are against taxing Internet access, we know that their voices need to be heard by those in the Senate who were elected to represent them,” Sepp said. “Taxpayers deserve protection from another burdensome tax that would stall innovation and crush creativity.”
American Consumer Institute CEO Steve Pociask predicted last month if the temporary ban were to expire, as Congress has come precariously close to allowing on several occasions, consumers could see taxes on Internet access rise to a rate on par with wireless services.
Wireless service taxes rose to a record 18 percent of the average wireless customer’s bill last year — almost three times the general sales tax rate — according to the Tax Foundation.