LA Times

Cities Consider Imposing a ‘Netflix Tax’

Oct 3, 2016  •  Post A Comment

The issue of whether consumers should have to pay a tax to watch Netflix and other streaming video services has reared its head in California.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Pasadena and other cities are examining the possibility of imposing such taxes.

“Pasadena city officials are mulling whether to tax subscribers of Netflix, Hulu and other video streaming using an existing municipal utility tax code that initially was designed for taxing cable-television users. Sacramento and dozens of other California cities have similar codes that might enable them to consider the tax,” The Times reports.

“That follows similar so-called ‘Netflix taxes’ that already have gone into effect in Pennsylvania and Chicago,” the report adds. “More levies elsewhere could be coming as state and local agencies try to generate more revenue, especially to replace revenue lost from consumers who became ‘cord cutters’ by dropping cable TV and switching to video streaming.”

While the trend appears to be moving toward more imposition of taxes, such measures are bound to meet resistance.

“For starters, the Internet Assn. — the trade group whose members include Netflix — is not happy about the tax effort and is campaigning to curb it. The group also hinted that it might pursue legal action in some cases,” The Times reports.

The article quotes Robert Callahan, the Internet Association’s California executive director, saying: “We’re not leaving anything off the table. There are a number of questions we have about the legality of this.”



  1. If there were ever a class of people who absolutely do not understand the moral of the goose that laid the golden eggs, it is those running government. Cities and states had better start getting a clue… they are going to have less tax revenue and had better learn to live within their means.

  2. I do not understand the legal basis for this effort.

    • Bill – it just depends on the statutes. If the statute says something to the effect that “sales tax shall be collected for services providing video programming…” then that’s the legal basis. As the article states, the statutes are based on taxation of cable services. Just depends on how specific or broad the statute is.

      • To a degree, those taxes made sense because of the physical infrastructure required in those communities to deliver cable service. Stringing cable, access to right-of-ways, etc.

        Such taxes should never have been imposed on satellite service as it does not require community/government infrastructure for support. It’s paid for totally by its users. The government supplies nothing that is required for it to work… except possibly government “permission”. I do imagine, however, that such taxes are levied against satellite services… probably in the name of “fairness”.

        If local governments are going to impose taxes/fees for viewing Netflix, then such taxes/fees should be paid for over the air broadcast viewing as well. It sort of works that way in England… why not here?

        I propose, in jest, that we impose such a system here in the U.S. By doing so, we would eliminate any need for other existing “viewing taxes/fees” like those described in the article in PA, Chicago, and Pasadena. Buy a TV and pay the first yearly tax/fee at the retailer. Retailer fills out a form that goes to a local/state “TV viewing fee agency” and every year the agency sends you a reminder form to pay the fee. Also… separate fees for each TV and no discounts for multiple TVs.

        Sounds “fair” to me.

  3. If you have cable or a similar service you are already paying the tax. You shouldn’t have to pay it again because you also use Netflix. This is the kind of nonsense that allows people like Trump to come out of nowhere and get a base of supporters.

    • I agree with everything you said, but… you will often find it is most often those on the left who propose and try to enact these sort of taxes/fees/whatever. That’s my observation at any rate.

      • Only, in this case, it turns out Pasadena has an appointed tax administrator who has the authority to make administrative rulings (levy taxes) without city council OR voter approval. Couldn’t find out his political affiliation, if any.

  4. We need to launch a TV show on Netflix (with a comedian like Colbert) to literally go behind the scenes of these scumbag politicians and do expose segments, satire and more … cities like Pasadena have been off the mainstream RADAR way too long … “Have Camera Will Travel to Expose Local Greedy Pricks”

  5. We already pay a ridiculous amount of absurdly named taxes on our cable bills; now they want to tax passive “viewing”? Isn’t double tax illegal somehow? I live near Pasadena and will take this directly to the council meetings. Any political hack that even mentions the possibility will never get my vote again. Amen to turning to cameras on and lighting up the shadows that these ignorant, greedy politicians hide in.

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