This from Jim, WB8AZP, via the ARROW mailing list:
Buried in the middle of the 1200-page Health Care Reform package is something that should be disturbing to all US amateur radio operators. Embedded in the funding guidelines section 415, paragraph 27, line 45, are details on one of the mechanisms that the government intends to employ to help pay for the staggering costs of the new plan.
To put it simply, the new health care guidelines support the notion of creative funding from untapped resources, and from other government agencies, like the FCC. This puts the burden on funding on other agencies, and therefore the health care reform pundits can claim that “they” didn’t introduce any new taxes to pay for everything.
Lurking in the depths of the new health carecare package is a time bomb waiting to affect all US Amateur Radio Operators; The new Talk And Pay (TAP) Tax.. What does the TAP Tax do? Well, just as it implies, it adds a tax on to each amateur license, based on usage of the bands.
The FCC knew it was going to be troublesome to enforce this kind of regulation, so they came up with a clever scheme – taxation by license class. All Technician, General, and Extra Class Licensees will be taxed at a different rate. Any holdover licenses from different classes will be taxed at the next higher rate, so novice license holders will be taxed as technicians, advanced holders as extra class licensees and so on. The logic is that higher class licenses can use more of the frequencies; therefore they pay a larger percentage. There are even paragraphs that define taxing stations that haven’t operated, (although you have to prove that by filing a waiver), stations where the license holder has become a silent key (a different waiver), and repeater or space stations (when the license is held by a non-profit group, you can apply for a waiver as well). They legislators have even thought of the mechanism to capture revenue from youngsters, in their special Tax On Eventual Earnings (TOE) tax. So, a youngster who is not working will pay into a TOE TAP TAX account, in the form of a debit owed to the government. Even retirees do not escape this tax, as there is a provision for the SNAP TAP TAX (Sure Not Accounting for Productivity).
There does seem to be a provision for testing down to a previous license class, so you can get a tax break by forfeiting your current license class, (after taking a new 50 question written exam, and paying a hefty 45 dollar examination fee). You’ll be then required to sign BCKTP in CW or “slash Back Tap” in voice.
This looks to be pretty well thought out. I stopped reading after seeing the FCC amateur radio entry. It appears that Cell phones and wireless data networks will be next. There are 20 other government agencies listed in the document. Where will this insanity end? All of this is scheduled to go into effect on April 1, 2011, because there apparently wasn’t enough time to implement it before then.
If this doesn’t negatively impact the growth of amateur radio, I don’t know what will! I think it will also promote the notion of going really underground, and not using your callsign at all., actually a practice that I’ve already heard lots of people adopt, especially on VHF.
I called my congressman after reading all of this, and he said that there are already proposals being filed to allow credit for amateur radio operators involved in public service, and he called it the Support for Individuals Desiring to Engage in Services Training, Education, and Planning (SIDESTEP). That makes me feel a little better.
I think it just might be time to get rid of my gear, before all this TOE TAP, SNAP TAP, BACK TAP, and SIDESTEP stuff goes into affect. Once again, the government is here to help you.