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WHO Mulls Global Internet Tax

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

13 May 2010

A financing plan devised in December 2009 and discussed informally in January 2010 is expected to be considered at the 63rd session of the World Health Assembly which takes place later this month in Geneva. The use of an internet tax to raise 'tens of billions of dollars from a wide base' is high up on the agenda for financing medical research and development, according to a draft agenda published by Fox News.

If approved in the Assembly, the World Health Organization (WHO) might launch a major campaign to persuade governments to introduce taxes to finance an ambitious research and development program for the benefit of the developing world.

The options to be considered according to the WHO financing plan included:

  • A digital tax or "bit tax" - with the volume of internet traffic increasing so rapidly, the plan suggested it could yield "tens of billions of US dollars from a broad base of users";
  • A 10% tax on the arms trade market, potentially raising about USD5bn per annum;
  • A tax on bank account transactions similar to Brazil's CPMF which, the report said, raised an estimated USD20bn per year before being abolished; and
  • A UNITAID style airline tax, which has raised around USD1bn since 2006.

The solidarity contribution or 'tax' on airline tickets represented 72% of UNITAID's financial base by the end of 2008 and is paid by passengers when purchasing their tickets in participating countries, normally as an addition to existing airport taxes.

The WHO report cites UNITAID, which provides access to treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, as evidence that "an international solidarity micro-levy is well accepted by the public and causes no economic distortion."

A comprehensive report in our Intelligence Report series examining the new possibilities that offshore e-commerce open up for business, and analysing the offshore jurisdictions that have led the way in offering professional e-commerce regimes for international business, with a particular focus on e-gaming, is available in the Lowtax Library at and a description of the report can be seen at
TAGS: tax | business | commerce | aviation | financial services | tobin tax | internet | health care | e-commerce | services

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