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UK Government to Tax Linux? 343

An anonymous reader writes "The UK government is looking at introducing a tax aimed at software published under GNU GPL. It claims that because programmers do it for free, it is losing out on income tax and that commercial software companies (read Microsoft) are at a disadvantage. Some pressure group has already put up a website with more details and news site Techworld have got a quote from a Treasury spokesman saying that they're only considering it."
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UK Government to Tax Linux?

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  • OMG (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:15PM (#8739779)
    Worst April Fool's article ever
  • by AtariAmarok ( 451306 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:16PM (#8739782)
    What is 100% of "free"?
    • by bheer ( 633842 ) <rbheer@gm a i l .com> on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:24PM (#8739923)
      I know this is a joke, but in a way the UK (any .gov, really) bills open source already. Folk who install/deploy/sell Linux solutions pay Value Added Tax on the services they render. The only reason open source volunteers are -- and will remain -- exempt is that they don't enter into transactions with the organizations they're volunteering code to. You can't tax volunteer activity.
      • by M.C. Hampster ( 541262 ) <> on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:46PM (#8740159) Journal

        Actually, the reason they can't use the VAT on open source work is that usually, there is no value-added.

        Yeah, I got karma to burn.

        • Actually, the reason they can't use the VAT on open source work is that usually, there is no value-added.

          Ouch! We need a "+1, Great Big Brass Ones" mod. Just to mod-up ballsy posts without giving any karma. Are you listening CmdrTaco []?

          Yeah, I got karma to burn.

          Yeah but do you have a shotgun and home security system to defend yourself with when they come after you?

          Disclaimer (I do have karma to burn but I don't have a shotgun): I completely disagree with what the parent says but I still wanted to get

      • You can't tax volunteer activity

        Oh yes, my government can.

        If you build a house in my country, and get help from a volunteering friend, you have to be extremely careful to avoid paying VAT on his/her services. The government will assess the house, and calculate a higher VAT amount if they think that you haven't payed enough.

    • What? (Score:5, Funny)

      by vwjeff ( 709903 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:34PM (#8740039)
      Another April Fools article. We all know that Linux is not real. You can't tax something that does not exist. Grow up people.
      • Another April Fools article. We all know that Linux is not real. You can't tax something that does not exist. Grow up people.

        In other news, SCO has announced their lawsuit against IBM and Linux users was all an elaborate April Fools joke. SCO CEO Darl McBride was quoted as saying "0mfG!!! lol0lol! st00p1d l4m3rz n00bz we r 0n1y fucking w/u!!!".

      • Re:What? (Score:3, Funny)

        by eclectro ( 227083 )
        Another April Fools article. We all know that Linux is not real

        Yeah, I heard that they stole all the code from SCO.
    • RTFA (Score:3, Informative)

      by Beliskner ( 566513 )
      What is 100% of "free"?
      RTFA! They want to tax the sale of open source software. I can see their point, if I'm on welfare and I write an OSS version of Oracle 10i which gets included free into the next version of Mandrake, I've just put ten thousand Oracle people out of their jobs, and if Oracle goes bankrupt, then the Country's Banks will have to write off those massive debts. Argentina comes to mind.
    • Ah, but it's not 100% of free []
    • by Gadzinka ( 256729 ) <> on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:56PM (#8740272) Journal
      No, it isn't.

      There was an attempt in Poland to tax linux this way. The thinking behind it was that if it is a gift for a commercial entity, than said entity has to pay Donation and Inheritance tax for it. And the base for this tax wouldn't be the price paid (zero). As it is with all donations, the base for the purpose of taxation is normal market price. Polish Revenue Service wanted it to be price of MS Office for OOo and price of Win NT/2k for Linux system.

      Now, this news we are writing about is April 1st, but the history with trying to tax Linux, Open Office etc in Poland was true. Luckily it failed, although Finance Ministry didn't issue official statement or act about it in order to not tie hands of some enterprising clerks in revenue service.

      Unfortunatelly I cannot find anything about it in English. If you know Polish google for podatek []

  • That sucks (Score:5, Funny)

    by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:16PM (#8739783) Homepage Journal
    At least with the Microsoft tax, I get a neat holographic coaster.
  • by Hooya ( 518216 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:16PM (#8739790) Homepage
    a 100% sales tax on $0 = $0. sheesh.
    • Er, no. It is 100% tax on $699 surely?

      I make that ... $699!
    • That's totally irrelevant, my friend, as a 100% tax on zero pounds sterling = 0 pounds.
    • by zakezuke ( 229119 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @06:04PM (#8741691)
      a 100% sales tax on $0 = $0. sheesh.

      I wanted to give my niece my old car. The car was a piece of junk, but it was a running piece of junk. If I were to "give" her the car, then the state would charge her tax on what it estimates it's value to be, which I'm told was between $750-$1500... basicly base price for a running car. Tax in her region would have been 8.5% if i'm not mistaken... plus misc fees and such. Fair and reasonable, but still a $63.75 fee + misc other fees involved in the transfer of a car and yearly taxes.

      Even selling it to her for $1.00 the state would be skeptical as to whether this was an honest deal, or a trick to avoid paying sales tax. I had to sign an statement of the car's value. Which was fine by me.. I signed a statement saying "it's had accidents, it has over 350,000 miles on it, family $1.00, non family $100.00".

      The point is you can tax things with no value, or little value. It could be a flat non percent tax, or a tax of what the goverment believes the value should be.

  • Thank God! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Knight Thrasher ( 766792 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:16PM (#8739792) Journal
    Real news on April 1st! Thank you! And please dear LORD no Open Source Tax!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Real news on April 1st! make up for the bullshit we get on the other 364 days.
  • Great (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:16PM (#8739801)
    So, a tax on my free time is it?

    What next? Sexual Enjoyment Tax??

  • Very cute. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jaywalk ( 94910 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:17PM (#8739808) Homepage
    And the "what you can do" plea to get readers to get major news organizations to pick up the story is a nice touch. Nice example of viral marketing. It would be a bit more convincing -- but less funny -- if they got people to write Parliament instead.

    I'd dearly love to see Forbes get suckered by this one. They've been such dorks about anything to do with Linux, it would be par for the course. It looks like they bought [] the Google mail story hook, line and sinker.

    • Cause it's true, they are launching a mail service. The April Fools joke from Google is about a job on their new moon base. Here's Google's April Fools Joke []
      • What happens to PageRank in the proximity of a black hole? Is there distortion that might result in link relevancy reduction or popularity warping? Could this somehow be harnessed to generate more dates for engineers?

        From the Google Lunar Job Page []. :)
    • Re:Very cute. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Draoi ( 99421 ) * <draiocht@mac. c o m> on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:29PM (#8739982)
      It looks like they bought the Google mail story hook, line and sinker.

      Actually, it's true []

      And hey look, Slashdot got a mention;

      "It's going to go down in history as one of the biggest pranks ever pulled," wrote one message poster at, which bills itself as a news provider for nerds.
      • Also you have to love how Slashdot posters get quoted in all sorts of articles these days, and they always cite a single highly rated post and make it sound like it represents the voice of geekdom on the Internet. Usually there's enough diversity in even the highly modded posts on Slashdot to show that there is no one opinion out there (well, perhaps we all agree that SCO are a bunch of scumbags...).

        Early adopters, loud opinions, and lazy journalists. Great combo.

      • Call me a cynic, but I'm still not buying it. A free email account that allows 10meg attachments and has a 1gig limit? And they plan to pay for it with spam they target by scanning your private correspondence? I can't believe that's a workable business plan. And I don't believe Google does either.

        If they ever offered such a service, I'd sign up for an account (maybe several) right away. And I'd never use it for correspondence. I'd use it for high volume data transfers, using those 10gig attachments.

    • Observe yet another masterpiece of FUD []by Daniel Lyons @ Forbes.
  • This one's too scary and too possibly real to be funny.

    Anyone familiar with the use of emminent domain to seize low value property and give it to private developers to turn into something worth some property taxes?
  • Come on, enough is enough. This one is so bad that I don't even have to look at the references to know its an April Fools joke.

  • ...will be taxed for building houses for free.

    As a member of the Union of Concerned Carpenters, I applaud this new policy.
  • The 8% sales tax comes to $55.92 per Linux installation.
  • x% of $0.00 = right...

    Otherwise, its not a fair tax.
  • is that there is no idea that is so stupid, evil, or pointless that SOMEbody SOMEwhere wouldn't think that it's a good idea. Most probably someone in the government.
  • by Meor ( 711208 )
    This being published today is just a coincidence. Check the BBC, it's been in process for a while. Puting things out for free is a compeditive advantage analogous to Microsoft providing free browsers when there is a commercial alternative.

    Personally I welcome the tax, I think it will even out the playing field a bit and create competition.
    • So, by the same logic(?) will they also be taxing the volunteer labours of organizations such as Habitat for Humanity [] or the Red Cross [] or any of the hundereds of other organizations who give freely of their time and resources, and might be donating something that some other company sells?
  • MS could give its products away for free in the UK.

    It's not like they don't overcharge in other regions to more than make up for it.
  • by pdan ( 624244 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:23PM (#8739894)
    In my country (Poland) a few years ago they decided that they should put VAT (value added tax) on free software. They found some law that enables tax officials to reassess value of goods if they seem underpriced. They assumed value of a Linux distro to be a price (not value of course) of Windows Server and for Open Office of MS Office Pro.
    Fortunately all media ridiculed this idea and they backed off.
  • Dammit, I hate April Fool's. I almost fell for that one. But with all the Big Brother shenanigans the Brits have been up to lately, can you blame me?
  • As if isn't already difficult getting people to volunteer their time and efforts. Geez!
  • Thank Gawd it only comes once a year.

  • The Brits tax everything to death. That's how they got where they are today.
  • I hope all countries save one adopt this strategy.

    That would leave the one remaining free-software country with such a HUGH software development advantage that the rest of the world would be lining up to "find out how they did it".

    It figures that globalization and free-trade advocates always fuck themselves silly trying to protect corporations that *marginally* have a presence in their host country. These corporations give a rats-ass-not about the host country and do everything possible to drive living
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:25PM (#8739936)
    The Brits Would Tax Your TV If They Could...oh wait...
    • by radish ( 98371 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @04:11PM (#8740434) Homepage
      Funny that. I recently moved to NYC from London, and although there's no TV License here, I have a whole bunch of weird surcharges and taxes on my cable bill (other than regular sales tax). These add up to considerably more than my TV License used to cost in the UK. So I pay more, and get much worse TV for it. Oh well.
      • Your cable company is screwing you. On my $151.66 cable bill (which includes broadband) I have a grand total of $11.52 in taxes and fees. $6.32 of that is state sales tax and $5.25 of that is the "Franchise fee" with only 5 cents being a "FCC Fee". That's $63 a year in "fees". I guess you could get a B&W license for that price, but a color one is up around what, $200? And that's just comparing the "fees". Let's not compare my miniscule sales tax with the downright confiscatory VAT.
  • by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:31PM (#8740007)
    Upon receipt of this news, Bill Gates ordered every lobbyist at Microsoft to stop whatever they're doing and lobby the government for a tax on GPL software in the U.S. as well.
  • /me waves private parts in air in front of me...

    Tax this, mutherf'r.
  • Michael, knock it off with all of these April Fools stories. We're getting sick of them.

    What? Taco's doing it too? Uh... wake me up tomorrow.
  • by rjelks ( 635588 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:38PM (#8740081) Homepage
    This is a little offtopic like many of the posts today. What better day to release a bomb on the tech community. If I were in charge of PR for a government agency or large company, I'd use April 1st to announce bad news. No one would believe it. Not that I think the UK is going to tax linux, but I wonder if anyone is sneaking in potentially bad news today in the hopes that it will be ignored as a joke.

  • by westfirst ( 222247 ) * on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:39PM (#8740090)
    Microsoft "gives away" IE. Sounds like a taxable item to me. And they give away plenty of other pieces of software for various reasons. Salesforces everywhere are known for claiming that someone is getting thousands of dollars of freebees, if they only purchase this minute. Gads, I think proprietary software companies "give away" more software than open source groups.

    • By that same logic, they should be taxing everything else that comes bundled with Windows. Special assesments for notepad, solitaire, random DLL's, etc.

      However, Linux users don't want to know what the special assesments will be for /bin/bash and /usr/bin/passwd. We won't even mention what Emacs is gonna cost you.
  • by ToadMan8 ( 521480 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:41PM (#8740106)
    April fools being this Stupid. An I getting older or is this year particularly Stupid? what a waste to have Mod points today! And to make matters Worse, SlashDot's accuracy typically so questionable I have no idea which to take as seriously as usual.
    • Mod points last three days. Take a nap. Come back tomorrow when you're not so grumpy.
    • by bogie ( 31020 )
      The thing is its just not really funny anymore. Now we know to expect it and that takes all of the fun out of it. Really it would be better to make this a regular news day and then add in one fake story.

      April fools and big pranks are still funny depending on the situation. Just not at slashdot.

  • by ibirman ( 176167 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:43PM (#8740131) Homepage
    I gave away at least 100 CDs with Linux on them over the past year. Can I take a tax deduction on each one?

    What will the UK value each copy at? I would say a complete distribution with software should be valued at $50,000US. So my charitable contributions are easily worth a few million.

  • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @03:46PM (#8740158)
    The UK has decided to Tax performances of Shakespeare in the park. "Giving away performances of Hamlet lowers the box office revenues of England's finest theaters", Tony Blair was heard to say. "It's got to stop, this giving things away. It's anti-Ameri... uh, it's not becoming of the nation."

    Elsewhere, the Queen Mum was heard to exclaim, "Taxation, taxation, taxation! My forefathers believed in it, and look what happened to them!"
    • "Elsewhere, the Queen Mum was heard to exclaim, "Taxation, taxation, taxation! My forefathers believed in it, and look what happened to them!""

      Forget about her forefathers... Look what happened to her! -She's DEAD!
  • One could already argue that there is a tax on the Linux operating system, although it is not a 'tax' in the ordinary definition of the word.

    In real terms, the amount of money required to create a Linux installation on any give computer is not only actual, but as well.




    Furthermore, a tax need not be a percentage of the sales price or a percentage at all, and in this case it certainly follows what is known as a 'Flat Tax' or set dollar amount.

    SCO has clearly set the tax for using Linux as $699 per s

  • Sorry. I misread it. I thought it was some sort of mascot-emplacement story: "UK Government to Tux Linux"
  • I mean, they should keep a fair playing field. To prove the OS is more government friendly then closed sourse, I will gladly let them tax me 100% of all free work.
  • SCO Surges (Score:2, Funny)

    by adler187 ( 448837 )
    In related news, gullible SCO investors who read the article have predicted the demise of Linux and have invested heavily in SCO. Just look at the surging [] stock price of SCOX!

    (Man I wish that was an april fools joke and that SCOX had really crashed, well there's always tomorrow)
  • These days it's getting kinda herd to tell.
  • ...that the premise is so plausible. Government relentlessly seeks things it can tax so it can buy votes by promising people things the government can steal for them, and I can't help imagining some legislator seeing the thread and thinking "Yeah..."
  • Look at the date folks...

  • Okay, how does 10% sound?
  • In the immortal lyrics of The Beatles:

    Let me tell you how it will be,
    There's one for you, nineteen for me,
    'Cos I'm the Taxman,
    Yeah, I'm the Taxman.
    Should five per cent appear too small,
    Be thankful I don't take it all,
    'Cos I'm the Taxman,
    Yeah, I'm the Taxman.
    If you drive a car, I'll tax the street,
    If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat,
    If you get too cold, I'll tax the heat,
    If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet.
    'Cos I'm the Taxman,
    Yeah, I'm the Taxman.
    Don't ask me what I want it for
    (Taxman Mister Wi
  • I think those advocating a 100% tax are going a bit overboard. The UK government should start with something small, like 5%. On a typical Fedora or Debian distro, that comes to nil pounds UK ($0 US), which is fairly affordable, even for out of work geeks. Starting at a reasonable rate would help people get used to the idea of the tax.
  • The author of the Techworld article, Maxwell Cooter, is a friend of Simon Travaglia [] -- see the BOFH FAQ [].

    Hope this puts it in perspective for the easily fooled...

  • If the software is being developed for free, somehow those people must have another source of income, such as a job for instance. If those people have jobs, how can the government possibly miss on income tax? Now let's assume those people get by *without* a job still developing software for free, same question - if there's no job in the first place, how does the government miss out on income tax?
  • This is the worst April Fool's joke I have ever heard.
  • "The UK government will announce more new taxes, including a retro-active tax to recover potential tax income lost during the 60's on free love and sex as well as a tax on air very shortly. You pay for gas, why not pay for the air that helps cars run?" according to George Needsadentist, a UK government spokesman.

    Scary, huh?
    What's next in addition to "air tax," "sex tax"?
    A "good teeth" tax? Blonde tax? Blue eyes tax? Tax on talking or tax to move a muscle? Or a think-tax; think and be taxed.

    I guess on
  • Britain is the country that taxes another "free" commodity, television. One is useless, the other useful, the reader will decide which is which... :)

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