If you weren't aware of it already, and we're sorry to be the ones to remind you, but it's that time of year to pay our dues to Uncle Sam. Paying taxes isn't anyone's idea of fun but the pain can be reduced by having an idea of what to expect, which brings us to this weeks Android App of the Week, TaxCaster by TurboTax.
It will be up to California residents to decide whether or not Amazon and other online retailers will have to collect sales tax in their state. According to the Associated Press, the California Attorney General's Office approved Amazon's petition for a referendum that will give voters the chance to overturn a new controversial law that altered what it means to have a physical presence in the state.
Every time a state draws up a new bill to force Amazon's hand at ponying up sales tax for products sold and shipped to its residents, the online retailer responds by killing off its associate program in that state and ending any business deals. It's akin to Amazon taking it's ball and going home, or at least going elsewhere, the only problem with that approach is Amazon is running out of places to, well, run. California is the most recent casualty to Amazon's associates program, but the e-tailer is also trying a different tactic this go-round.
The muddy waters surrounding ecommerce and state sales taxes has prompted Amazon to end its affiliate program in Illinois. The move is in response to Illinois passing a new law requiring ecommerce companies to collect sales tax in the state, even if there isn't a physical presence there, like a shipping warehouse or headquarters.
Private copying levies can have a divisive impact on a room full of people with some sense of technology and law. It is arguably one of the most hotly debated areas of copyright law. In case you need to brush up on your knowledge of copyright law, a private copying levy is generally imposed on the sale of storage media that can be used for copying copyrighted content. The proceeds are distributed among copyright owners as prevenient compensation for copying.
The debate is about to heat up as France is now ready to expand the purview of its private copying levy beyond recordable media and MP3 players. The government there is considering taxing all non-Windows tablets with more than 40GB of storage. Apparently, they feel there is a strong case for taxing tablets as they can be used for duplicating copyrighted content. Despite the majority view that tablets are part of the genus Computer, the French possess enough profundity to point to something that makes the two substantially dissimilar: Windows.
Let alone the fact that even computers running a desktop OS, and not just tablets, can be used for duplicating content, it is ludicrous how the new law exempts tablets running Windows as it treats them as full PCs.
According to French trade magazine Numerama, tablet vendor Archos isn’t too pleased by the lopsided nature of the proposed law and has threatened to join a lawsuit against the legislation. Contending that it lets users turn the company’s Android tablets into full PCs by letting them install Linux on them, the company wants its tablets to be exempt from the levy in much the same way as Windows-based slates.
A House Judiciary subcommittee on Thursday passed the Cell Tax Fairness Act of 2009, a bipartisan bill designed to ban new state or local taxes on mobile phones for the next five years. As it stands, cell phone customers pay on average over 15 percent in taxes on their wireless service, compared to about 7 percent on other taxable goods, according to Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).
"While family members are forced into paying more money, out-of-pocket, to communicate with one another, these predatory taxes are often squandered on projects that have little to do with improving the communications network," an advocate group called the National Taxpayers Union wrote in a letter earlier this year.
What the bill won't do is affect current taxes, ban new federal taxes, or apply to fees that subsidize emergency 911 services and contributions to the Universal Service Fund.
"The Cell Tax Fairness Act does not take away any existing revenue for state or local governments, it simply calls for a period of tax stabilization," Lofgren said.
The bill seems destined to go through. It has the support of the entire wireless industry, particularly Verizon, which is pushing to have it passed before Congress goes on recess for the midterm elections.
How would you feel about a 3 percent tax on monthly cell phone bills to help newspapers and traditional journalism? If that doesn't sound appealing, you're not alone - some 84 percent of Americans oppose such a tax, according to a new Rasmussen Report.
In fact, Americans don't like any of the tax ideas the FTC has proposed. The above cell phone levy is just one of many proposed taxes designed to help keep privately owned newspapers from shutting up shop. The FTC has also suggested a tax on the purchase of electronic goods, like computers, ebook readers, and tablets. Not surprisingly, some 76 percent of those polled in a national telephone survey are against the idea.
Yet another idea being tossed about is to tax certain websites, like the Drudge Report, in order to help the newspapers that they draw their headlines from. This too is being met with public opposition, this time to the tune of 74 percent.
The concern on the part of the FTC is that offline newspapers are having a tough time staying afloat, yet most Americans view local newspapers as more reliable than online news sources. Nevertheless, about 58 percent of Americans said they were confident that other news sources would fill in the gap should traditional papers go out of business.
Two things are certain in every life: Death and taxes. While we have yet to find any good freeware tools to help with the former, we've been on a kick to find alternatives to pricy software like Quicken or Microsoft Money. The good news? We were able to find five separate programs that can help you track the money coming in and flowing out. The bad news? It's slim pickings beyond this. We came across plenty of paid-for applications and a proverbial bucket full of online applications that help you track your finances. But when it comes to freeware financing applications, there just isn't a huge market for this kind of stuff.
But while we're blabbering, your fortune is surely ticking away! So what are you waiting for? Stop reading! Start downloading! Put on your accounting hat!
According to Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, the International Revenue Service should start taxing the economies of Second Life, World of Warcraft and other virtual worlds. In an annual report posted on the IRS website, Olsen has stated that there are a number of issues that the IRS should address before they get out of control.
"Economic activities associated with virtual worlds may present an emerging area of noncompliance, in part, because the IRS has not issued guidance about whether and how taxpayers should report such activities," Olson writes in her report. Alongside that, she identifies that almost all income is subject to taxation, even prizes and winnings.
This isn’t the first time this issue has been mentioned, though. Since 2003 people both on and offline have looked ad the taxation of virtual economies and Dan Miller, a senior economist for the congressional Joint Economic Committee, has started playing with the idea of taxing MMORPGs after he’d taken a step into online gaming.
With any luck, this won’t come full circle. It would be a huge burden on taxpayers, having to report their every move in World of Warcraft to Uncle Sam, but who would really want to get caught up in paperwork just to play a video game?
Purchasing software and other digital content online is not only be convenient, it can also make fiscal sense when there's no sales tax involved. That's been the case for some time now, but according to DailyTech, the free ride may be rapidly coming to an end.
With a $130 billion digital market going untaxed, the temptation for some states to cash in may be too great to pass up, even if the idea of taxing downloads doesn't pass muster at the national level. Indiana, South Dakota, and Utah are the most recent states to sign digital download taxes into law, bringing the count up to 9 states altogether in 2008, and 17 in all. But are taxes the answer?
Several online entities have begun lobbying against the taxes, claiming that this differentiation is vital to their business. As Steve Delbiano from NetChoice - which is composed of Ebay, AOL, Yahoo, and others - explains it, "With global warming and a world that's running out of oil, the last thing governments should do is add taxes on something that uses no oil and produces no carbon. A digital download is the greenest way to buy music, movies, and software, since it requires no driving to the store, no delivery vans, and no plastics or packaging."
What's your stance? Do states have a moral and legal right to tax digital downloads, or should the internet tax moratorium trump individual state desires?