back to article Hungary's internet tax cannot be allowed to set a precedent, says EC

We cannot allow Hungary to set a precedent with its internet tax, the European Commission’s digital agenda spokesman said on Tuesday. In response to questions from The Register, Ryan Heath – official mouthpiece for unelected digital czar "Steelie" Neelie Kroes – was scathing about Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s plans …

  1. Lionel Baden


    I bet the is pissed they didn't think of this first.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: heehee

      "I bet the is pissed they didn't think of this first."

      I think they've quite enough options for committing electoral suicide as things stand.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: heehee

        Electoral suicide? Who are you going to vote for?

        1) Etonian old-boy in the pay of evading multinationals; or

        2) Etonian old-boy in the pay of tax evading multinationals

        Pick whichever team you want, you'll still get the same kind of asshole in charge,

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: heehee

          Yes, but while it might not matter to the electorate, it matters a LOT to the asshole in question - after all, more than one election win means you have a 'legacy' apparently. How better to he keep his expenses, old-boy network, start a token war or two for his memoirs, and provide 'credibility' for after-dinner speeches?

          The Grey Man - £25000 per rambling after-dinner speech

          Teflon Tony - £155000 per rambling after-dinner speech

          I rest my case.

        2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          Re: heehee

          I've no time for the man but Ed Miliband is not an Old Etonian.

  2. Chad H.

    Someone should give orban a snickers, he can be a right diva when he's Hungary...

  3. LucreLout Silver badge

    I'd hate a broadband tax, I really would. I don't download a lot of stuff, but I like the idea that I could, if I wanted. I like that businesses can be started with the click of a mouse, from a library (heh heh, remember them!) computer if necessary, and require little capital, if any, to get started. I like that I can do almost limitless research without needing to leave home.

    Thing is, I'm not Hungarian. It's really not my place to tell them how, where, and when to raise the taxes they need to pay for their services. Maybe this EU leech could keep in mind that he isn't Hungarian either, and that all of Europe might need less taxes if he and his colleagues weren't so wasteful of our money - Anyone know which of the parliaments they're sitting in just now?

    1. Paul IT

      There is a point

      I believe that email should be taxed when you send. A charge of 5 pence per email sender would bother anyone and this should go towards a greener society as no one pays for the power used to transmit the email through the hundreds if not thousands bits of kit needed for the delivery of the email.

      All email should be authenticated and thus taxed. It won't reduce spam but may deter some spammers.

      1. Another User

        Re: There is a point

        Already invented. Think of stamps for email. German DE-mail is 0.39 EUR per sent email. Tax is included. It is authenticated and to be used for communication with authorities and for business purposes.

        In other words: Pigs can fly

        (I do not know how many such mails are actually sent.)

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      The European Commission is charged with removing barriers to trade within the EU. Hence, the way it weighed in about roaming charges and it can most probably use the same arguments as it did then about this: such a tax cannot be applied to citizens visiting Hungary and using data on their mobile devices. It can do the same with companies wanting to offer internet-based services in Hungary.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > The European Commission is charged with removing barriers to trade within the EU.

        And in my experience they do a pretty good job of it. I have had to ask for their assistance on two occasions when governments needed reminding of their obligations to respect the free movement of citizens and services and they have been great. In both cases I was acting purely in an individual capacity, and it was refreshing to see them take an interest and actually back me up.

  4. Only me!

    End User Tax?

    Where are they planning to tax this?

    Through put of data in the ISP? So do not share your network with others.

    Tax the end user.....upload or download or both?

    Tax on the EE principle of data counting (Double the data count)

    Does it include overhead data that you do not want.....i.e. remove all data considered as spam and do not count advert data you did not click on.

    Wrong, this is just wrong.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A Bond 'Baddie' just waiting to happen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Yeah, because Mr. Gulyás¹ name is not quite up to the task.

      ¹ Hungarian for "goulash". Bit like having a Mr. Fishandchips around these parts.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great idea

    This is an excellent idea if they are short of cash. Providing there is no obvious technical workaround to avoid the tax, it ticks all the boxes of a good tax:

    1. Easy to collect: ISPs have to meter anyway and they will pay the tax, so no complicated and burdensome end user collection.

    2. Room to grow: data use will likely increase rather than decrease so the tax take will go up over time without people noticing.

    3. Lucrative: it can pull in a lot of money.

    4. Low friction: as it collected by a middle man voters will not notice it much.

    1. itzman

      Re: Great idea

      I agree. you don't have to download huge amounts of data and pay huge amounts of tax. Its not a tax on working, its a tax on spending, which is good too.

    2. Levente Szileszky

      Re: Great idea

      "4. Low friction: as it collected by a middle man voters will not notice it much."

      You really miss the point here, pal, hah! :D

      If anything this actually just pissed off EVERYBODY, even their own voters, even the numb grandmas and grandpas because they like and listen to their grandkids more than to Orban's kleptocratic regime.

      10k-20k crowd marched two days ago, didn't change Orban's mind.

      100k+ crowd marched last night, essentially blocking some main arteries in the city, apparently sill wasn't enough to force Orban to back down.

      This is mid-week - what's next...?

      Orban is standing still yet the party elite took notice: the Hungarian press is full of anonymous party crooks voicing their fear that this very typical stubborn stance from Orban just triggered a huge backlash - and people were already cliching their fists, full of seething hatred, after years and years of watching this uber-arrogant, loudmouthed, kleptocracy running amok, dealing with a systemic corruption that's now unmatched anywhere in Europe, now also openly operating as a government-run loyalty scheme, as untouchable cronies and oligarchs took over the entire economy, blackmailing or forcing out or destroying anyone who wasn't willing to give up his hard-built business, cracking down on every civil organization that is not dependent from the government, perverting the entire justice system as well as using prosecutory powers as political and economical terror tools etc etc.

      People are at a boiling point and at the same time the stodgy Ramses from Felcsut (the small backwater place Orban hails from; the village where he just - seriously!!! - HAD BUILT A SOCCER STADIUM BEHIND HIS WEEKEND HOUSE!), well he apparently became so disconnected he really don't see the coming hard turn and he's unwilling to brake...

      ...and all this was supposed to be a simple diversion from the super-embarrassing, very serious diplomatic mess of the recent travel ban the US just put in effect for state-run corruption, banning such gov' officials as the president of National Tax and Customs Administration of Hungary, her VP of Taxation, and numerous, highest-placed other right-hands and chief oligarchs of Orban*, pretty much putting him on equal footing with Putin.

      (* these are guys like the one called A. Habony, a short, practicing martial arts fellow, who famously sued every single news outlet for writing about his criminal sentencing when he, after almost running over them at a crossing, jumped out of his SUV and beat up a retired couple on the street, at broad daylight; classic low-brow mobster-style. Except one thing, of course: these guys lack any balls. They are just cheap cowards and greedy, tacky-folksy Central-European copycats of any 'decent' mafia - they don't have the balls you see from Eastern European mobsters or ex-military from the Balkan, they are only loud and aggressive because they took over the government and perverted even the laws to provide them cover, which they grossly misunderstood as being invincible - they are not, their days are numbered.)

  7. Warm Braw Silver badge

    The tax is merely a side issue

    The real problem is the "limit media and internet freedom" bit. Hungary has been becoming substantially more authoritarian and came dangerously close to having its EU voting rights removed because of constitutional changes that appeared to be in conflict with human rights principles. They've backtracked a bit since then, but there's clearly a political appetite for more central control over all forms of expression.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is internet service subject to VAT?

    I suppose proposing it as a capless per gigabyte tax was a monumental fail, but with the cap is this really a big deal any more? We're talking barely two euros, isn't that 10% or less (unless they get REALLY good prices over there) which is quite a bit less than VAT...unless they're already paying VAT, in which case adding a tax on top of a tax would be kind of annoying!

    1. Smitty Werbenjaegermanjensen

      Re: Is internet service subject to VAT?

      Not being a UK- ite, I don't know about VAT but I agree with you about 'is it a big deal?' in my opinion the proposed "Internet tax" itself is not that heinous. Nobody likes another tax, but it seems a legitimate way for a government to raise money.

      Where I live (and I expect it's the same most everywhere) there's a portion of my Income tax supposedly dedicated for roading. There's also a road tax built in to my vehicle licensing fee, and into the cost of a metric dollop of fuel. Does it pay for the roads? Maybe. Do I like it? No. But the point is that it's kind of user pays, so we get over it - unlike general taxation where small-minded selfish people with no kids complain about having to fund the education system.

      Will the Internet tax pay for interweb infrastructure? Probably not, but at a stretch it might help fund better telco regulation. Does it really hurt? At under 2 quid a month, probably not. Is it sinister? No more so than any other tax. Is it user pays? Yep, so a bit like road tax - if you don't like it, don't use the roads. However, I really doubt that the equivalent of half a cup of a Costa coffee per month is going to force people off the internet in the same way that 55% of my fuel costs are tax doesn't force me off the roads.

      Then again, where I live we haven't protested about anything since 1981, but that was a doozy.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is internet service subject to VAT?

      > is this really a big deal any more?

      Is it a big deal to pay a tax for being able to express your opinion in these pages? Is it a big deal to pay a tax for being able to read others' opinions? A big deal to pay a tax so that you can go on StackOverflow and find the answer you need so you can move forward with your programming problem at work? A big deal to pay a tax so that you can go to Google Scholar and find a (freely downloadable, hopefully) version of that seminal paper that you need to cite on your own assignment (due tomorrow morning)? A big deal to pay a tax to access a news source that you trust more than your local government/oligarch controlled media? A big deal to pay a tax so that you can email / Skype your friends and family halfway around the world?

      I don't know. You tell me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is internet service subject to VAT?

        I can't/won't tell you what to think. I have only my opinions.

        The much bigger issue than tax for me is if any govt. tries to influence or limit what should be legitimately available via the Internet.

        However, is it really a big deal to pay road tax to go to your workplace, to go to the footy, to take your family on holidays where you will? In my opinion, no. Governments tax things that have value and that people use. Always have, always will. I'd never take the M6 through Brummy rather than using the toll road, as pleasant as Birmingham is reported to be.

        - Do you refuse to travel abroad because of airport departure fees, taxes on aircraft fuel, airline levies, the fact that the government taxes the airlines efficiency through corporate tax?

        - Do you avoid flushing the shitter because the council (literally) taxes your arse?

        Didn't think so.But try to tax the sacred Internet, dominion of free everything, and somehow a cardinal rule has been broken. If the tax is so large that it becomes a barrier, THEN you'd see me objecting. (That's why I haven't used petrol tax as an example)

        And as you have pointed out, people use the service to Skype & email friends etc globally - even at 2 quid a month they're saving bucketloads vis-a-vis postage, phone calls and so on. So even with the tax, most people are probably better off.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    I sensed a disturbance in their wallets...

    As though thousands of Hungarian politicians and civil servants had their access point keys compromised. What goes around, will likely come around I expect.

  10. xyz

    bet this is giving TV Licencing a good idea

    about how to screw a few schekels out of punters to keep the Beeb afloat....eeek!

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: bet this is giving TV Licencing a good idea

      What is the definition of "internet"?

      TV licensing covers broadcast.

      I don't see a specific tax on deliveries and/or telephone communications (other than normal sales tax/vat).

      So, whatever hardware/software they tax, I could see someone making a competing "sneaker net" or wifi mesh network.

      While it's hard to buy your own broadcast equipment for TV, how easy is it to hook up a rasp' pi or Ardino to an aerial of some sort?

  11. cortland

    2009 FCC Tax (spoof)


    1. Enter the following totals on FCC/IRS Form 1040-T (Communication surtax reporting form):

    a. Exempt words used to establish or conclude a taxable conversation. Add this number to the total in section 12, line 17.

    b. Taxable words. (Expletives and audible interjections must be counted.) Add this number to the total in section 13, line 6.

    c. Untaxable words. (Report all untaxable words spoken during the conversation. Untaxable words are: Words spoken by a non-resident, non-US citizen, and words used to further the National Security of the United States.) . Add this number to the total number in section 14, line 11.

    2. Calculation of alternative minimum words and tax due.

    Add section 13, line 6, and section 14, line 11. Enter this number in section 17, line 4.

    Divide the number in section 12, line 17 by three. Write this number in section 17, line 5.

    Subtract section 17, line 5, from section 17, line 4. If the result is 0 or negative, multiply the number in section 17, line 4 by three and write the result in section 13, line 7.

    To calculate your tax, multiply the LARGER of either section 13, line 6 or section 13, line 7 by .05. Write this number in section 13, line 22. This is your conversation tax due.

    Pay not later than 12 days after the monitored conversation to:

    Chief Cashier,

    The Federal Communications Commission

    Gettysburg, PA 02814-7734

  12. Renan "C#" Sousa

    If such a law were to pass...

    I wonder what impact it would have in their accountancy if world + dog started DDoS'ing the hell out of Hungary's government and public service sites.

    Have they made a simulation of such a case yet?

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