Monday, March 27, 2017

License fees on iPads & laptops is chock full of stupid

So the Irish government is going to redefine what a "television" is which will allow them to say that anyone who has a laptop or an iPad will have to buy a €160 license in order to own such a device. All of this is because RTE wants (needs?) more money.

The obvious answer (scrap the license fee) is unpalatable to the statists who control the government so they have to redefine words and go to great lengths to try to plug a small budget hole in our bloated, mostly unnecessary public television/radio service. This opens up so many potential issues that they will have to deal with in legislature that it will require one huge pretzel of a law to make this work.

First, who will who will have to pay this license fee? Will every tourist touting an iPad have to pony up €160? What about every business traveler with a MacBook? Surely not. So, there's exception 1. What about people who are visiting for a month? 3 months? What about those who come for a 6-week course in Donegal in July? What about American students over for their semester abroad?

The intent of the law is to bring into the license fee catchment all of those people who don't have a television, who do their viewing on their tablet or laptop. How is the government going to track those people? Will everyone who buys an iPad or laptop have to register their purchase with the state? Will shopkeepers demand ID from anyone who wants to buy a laptop. If yes, that will make shopping across the border a whole lot more appealing even when the exchange rate is unfavourable.

Maybe that won't be necessary, but rather the thought police will demand the download records from every internet provider operating in the state. UPC, Eir, Vodafone, etc. will be compelled by the state to hand over all the names of those who they supply, but of course the state says mobile phones will not be included so anyone who is paying  for broadband can say it's for their phone. Very few people would have an iPad or laptop but no smartphone.

So this change to the license law will be even less enforceable than the current TV license. Some lily-livered law-abiding people (as I am) will pay, but I doubt they'll get anywhere near the €5m per annum they expect.

But I already buy my TV license so it won't affect me, right? Wrong!

I'm self-employed and now the government is about to make my TV license a legitimate business expense. I've never written it off before, but I will now as should everyone in the state who needs their laptop or iPad at home for work. Soooo, the question is, will this be a revenue positive or revenue negative change for the government? My guess is negative.

This idea is just so stupid, but it's what governments do.