Sidney Herald: Bill originally co-sponsored by Daines to nix Internet taxes is on President’s desk

A bill Montana’s senators have both at one time or another promoted is now on the President’s desk for signing. The measure prohibits taxing the Internet, even in states that already had it. The Senate recently approved the bill, whose overall purpose was revamping trade law, 75 to 20, sending it on its way.

Montana is among states that would have imposed an automatic 3.75 percent tax on Internet access if the moratorium had ever been lifted and nearby North Dakota and South Dakota were among seven states that already imposed such a tax.

Montana Senators Steven Daines and Jon Tester were cosponsors of the Internet Tax Freedom Act. Both applauded passage of the bill.

“Reliable and affordable internet access is critical to the success of families, schools, and businesses across Montana,” Tester said. “My bill prevents new taxes from being imposed and allows folks the freedom to continue to use the world’s greatest source of information.”

Daines called it critical to future economic opportunities in Montana.

“The Internet is a critical avenue for Montana businesses to compete in the global marketplace and serves as a gateway for economic opportunity,” he said. “This permanent ban on taxing the Internet protects small businesses and hardworking families from senseless new costs and ensures that the Internet will remain a strong engine of innovation and growth.”

President and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce agreed.

“Montana consumers and businesses face enough economic challenges — unnecessary and over-burdensome taxes on Internet access shouldn’t be added to the list,” he said. “We applaud Senator Daines’ efforts to make permanent the Internet access tax moratorium.”

Riley Johnson, Montana State Director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said free Internet access is critically important in rural areas.

“Small business owners are increasingly reliant on the Internet and that is especially true in rural areas — like Montana — where electronic commerce delivers more products and creates more opportunities than ever. Taxing it would obviously raise costs for small businesses that buy on the Internet and reduce sales for small businesses that sell on the Internet.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell helped broker a deal with Democrats earlier in the week that made the the bill’s passage possible.

“I think many Americans would agree with this statement: The Internet should remain open and free — politicians should certainly not try to tax it,” the Kentucky lawmaker said. “Congress passed a temporary ban on Internet taxes in 1998. It was an important, bipartisan win for the American people. Congress has since voted high times to reauthorize that temporary relief — and now it’s time to make it permanent.”

While Congress had passed bills temporarily prohibiting Internet access taxes, up until now those states which had such taxes were allowed to continue. Those taxes will now have to be phased out by the summer of 2020.

North Dakota is among states which had been levying such a tax as are South Dakota, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Hawaii and Wisconsin.

Other business groups have supported taxing online sales, pointing out that brick-and-mortar stores must collect such taxes. Not requiring online businesses to do so puts a brick and mortar store at a big disadvantage.