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Television tax

televisionI don’t own a television.

Don’t really like ’em much. But I am a video editor and had thought about getting a couple of cheap old TVs for editing purposes. Thing is, here in Ireland they have this thing called a Television License. It’s about €160 a year and you have to pay it if you have a television in your house. I surmised that this tax meant that Irish television must be commercial-free.

Wrong.

It has possibly slightly fewer commercials than US television, but barely so. The television tax man came to my house and asked if I had a TV. I replied in the negative and then took the opportunity to ask him about using televisions for my editing set-up. He said that even if I had a television on the premises, gutted of its receiver and used soley for editing my home videos I’d still have to pay a tax. So I asked him, out of curiosity, would I pay a tax if I had a television receiver card in my computer? Apparently, that was not taxable.

The television tax man went on to explain that the Irish government was currently trying to pass a law that made any equipment capable of displaying a video image liable for a tax. I pulled out my mobile phone (that’s “cell phone” to you, Mr & Mrs USA), which happens to have a video call feature.
“Like this?” I asked.

The absurdity of this tax boggles the mind. The idea of paying twice for entertainment, both by wasted time during commercial breaks and then again through a government tax on my television equipment is almost insulting. The added ridiculousness of applying such a tax to “any video device” is also absurd. That means computers, mobile phones, handheld devices, refrigerators with LCD interfaces . . . the list goes on. How does that money have anything to do with, for example, with any video conferencing I might decide to do?

If you’re someone like me who has no desire to own a television, being asked to pay a tax for one just because I own a device with video functionality like a computer, mobile phone (or video iPod!) is unfair. If the government wishes to apply a blanket tax to support TG4 or Irish radio, make it part of a property owner’s levy or income tax. Assigning a tax to an arbitrary piece of machinery like a television or, worse, “any video device” feels like larceny.