Chicago, for once, represents the wave of the future.
Netflix service in Chicago is about to get notably more expensive. On the hunt for new revenue, Chicago’s Department of Finance is applying two new rules that would impact companies like Netflix and Spotify. One covers “electronically delivered amusements” and another covers “nonpossessory computer leases”; together they form a unique and troubling new attempt by cities to tax any city resident that interacts with “the cloud. According to the Chicago Tribune, streaming service providers need to start collecting the tax starting September 1.
The new tax is expected to net the city of Chicago an additional $12 million annually.
“The amusement tax applies to charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in an amusement,” states the city’s new ruling (pdf). “This includes not only charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in amusements in person but also charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in amusements that are delivered electronically.”
“Jurisdictions around the world, including the US, are trying to figure out ways to tax online services,” a Netflix representative tells the Verge. “This is one approach.”
Wow! $12 million annually for the Midwest metropolis.
That sounds like a figure that better describes the net of all drug transactions in the city during any given week.
For a pittance, a city of almost 3 million people will extend a symbolic tax on “electronically delivered amusements” and the “nonpossessory computer leases” they rode in on.
Why this is a token gesture, of course; one with mighty ramifications and a dark foreshadowing of our future.
For $12 million, Chicago’s internet streaming tax is obviously not about the money. It’s about, as I called it earlier, the “symbolism.” It’s about setting the stage and erecting a new revenue paradigm that will one day prove to be so lucrative that the $12 million will seem like nothing but a penny investment, comparatively.
Bend over and assume the position, internet consumer!