What’s your take on the proposed email tax?

I don’t know how true it is, but there’s a rumor circulating regarding a provision within the proposed Internet sales tax bill. Apparently, Congress wants to tax emails in eCapital bldgxcess of 150 words.

When I first heard this, I was furious. All in all, I’d prefer to see Congress stop spending and giving away money than raising taxes.

But the more I thought about the email tax, the more I liked what I was hearing. Here’s why. Everyone gets tons of emails every day. Most emails are okay. But every now and then I get emails that are as long as my arm and written like a textbook. You know the kind – a solid block of text, no paragraph breaks.

Reading the long emails isn’t the problem. The problem comes when someone sends me an email that’s that long and I somehow feel obligated to respond with a lengthy email – to answer all their questions, to respond thoughtfully and professionally. Because they spent so much time on it, it makes me feel I need to be polite and answer thoroughly.

As a writer, I strive to create extremely well written prose regardless of what I’m writing. Where responding to emails is concerned, that means drafting my response, rereading it for clarity, making necessary changes to improve reader comprehension, editing the piece, rereading again, and finally proofing for typos, wrong words, and so on. It takes a lot of time.

However the shorter emails – those of 150 words or less – are a snap. They’re not too long, so they’re mostly about a single topic. I can respond quickly.

So I don’t care about the proposed email tax. Instead, I’m sharpening my skill to become more precise in my writing, more effective in communicating my intent, more skilled at saying exactly what I want to say and need to say in 150 words or less, and getting on with my life.

It seems to be working. After all, I don’t have trouble with text messages. I can have a meaningful conversation (if that’s what you call it) with someone in about a minute. Granted, they’re not in-depth conversations, but they’re certainly long enough for me to get my point across and to understand what the other person is trying to say.

I’m also spending more time on the phone. That’s my preferred mode of communication anyway. There’s nothing more enjoyable than having a conversation with a colleague, friend, client, prospect, vendor, or friend.

One last thing: If you don’t agree with the proposed tax on emails of more than 150 words please feel free to post a comment to this blog post. But make sure your comment and response doesn’t exceed 150 words. If the Feds learn about that, I’m sure we’ll start to see a tax on blog posts as well as a tax on responses to blog posts.

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3 Responses to What’s your take on the proposed email tax?

  1. Well, I think it’s ridiculous. An email tax. I have many lengthy conversations with friends, family, clients, blogging pals, writers, other editors. How could they possibly enforce this anyway? Though I do like the idea of becoming more concise. But sometimes, I don’t want to be concise, I want to ramble.

  2. Hugh Manning says:

    I believe this is one of those recurring meme’s that sounds plausible, but in reality is not. Usually the rational given is that the Internet is robbing business from the US Postal Service, so in order to keep the USPS alive, they are going to tax emails.

    While I agree that concision is important in all forms of communication, it is rather difficult if not impossible to tax words in a email. The data is sent across the Internet at bits ( digital 1′s and 0′s) not words. There would have to be some type of rendering of the message back into text in order to do a word count, for there is no distinction between a bit that is a picture, graphic, sound or word. It is all just collections of 1′s and 0′s. Now if there was a tax on data stream, that could be done, but I think it would be quite an overreach by the government to attempt it. People that would really hurt would be companies such as NetFlix and Amazon. And really, what is the difference in a bit sent over the Internet for a phone call (think Skype) and a bit sent as an email message?

    Given my libertarian leanings, I am opposed to any increase in taxation of any kind. I am doubly concerned about taxes that would have a negative impact on e-commerce. As my mom used to say “I’, agin’ it”.

  3. Gil Effron says:

    Karen and Hugh, I owe you and everyone else an apology on this.

    I thought it was a clever way for me to protest against super-long emails. To my knowledge, there is no proposed tax — although I am sure (nay positive) the Feds could find a way to tax it if they wanted to.

    So next time I try to be too clever, I’ll add a disclaimer at the bottom that says, “This is just a joke. (Or is it?)”

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