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US Rep. Blumenauer Proposes Taxes on Commercial Non-Scientific Space Flights

"We pay taxes on plane tickets. Billionaires flying into space—producing no scientific value—should do the same, and then some," said US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

Following the successful launch and return of Blue Origin’s first manned flight to space on Tuesday, a Democratic lawmaker proposed legislation that would tax space travel for non-scientific research purposes. 

US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced the Security Protections Against Carbon Emissions (SPACE) Tax Act, which would create excise taxes on commercial space flights carrying human passengers. 

Blumenauer unveiled the proposal shortly after Blue Origin’s founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos completed his short jaunt into space Tuesday morning. 

The so-called “billionaire space race” kicked off earlier this month when Virgin Galactic Holding’s founder Richard Branson made a similar trip.

"Space travel isn’t a tax free holiday for the wealthy," Blumenauer said. "We pay taxes on plane tickets. Billionaires flying into space—producing no scientific value—should do the same, and then some." 

"I’m not opposed to this type of space innovation. However, things that are done purely for tourism or entertainment, and that don't have a scientific purpose, should in turn support the public good,” he said.

The Congressman also cited concerns over the carbon emissions caused by space flights, noting they are 60 times higher than what is produced by transatlantic flights on a per-passenger basis.

Blumenauer’s newly-proposed measure would include a per-passenger tax on the price of a commercial flight to space and a two-tiered excise tax depending on how high suborbital flights go.

The first tier would apply to flights between 50 miles and 80 miles above Earth’s surface, while the second higher rate would apply to flights more than 80 miles above Earth’s surface. There would be exceptions to the taxes for NASA flights for scientific research purposes.

Neither Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic nor Elon Musk’s SpaceX has commented on the tax proposal.

According to CNN, Blue Origin has booked nearly $100 million in tickets for upcoming space flights, and Virgin Galactic has sold 600 tickets for up to $250,000 apiece for planned flights.  

“This is potentially going to be a very significant business," Blumenauer told CNN on Wednesday. "Why should a family that is taking kids to Legoland pay a 9.5% ticket tax and other charges on their airline tickets, and space tourists who spend a gazillion dollars have tax-free tourism?" 

He also said it is too early to say at what rate any new space tourism tax should be levied or what the money raised should be spent on, but he believes the legislation is “a starting point of a conversation.”

Blumenauer is the latest lawmaker to criticize billionaires for focusing on space exploration while many Americans lack access to necessary resources. 

US Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) recently said, “What we need as a nation: Housing for all, Universal health care, Thriving public schools. What we don’t need: Billionaires hoarding wealth so they can launch themselves into space.” 

US Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) suggested an alternate headline to the high-profile space race: “Billionaires make fortunes off companies with massive climate footprints, use money to escape burning planet.” 

Warren Gunnels, policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), tweeted that "if there was any economic justice in the world, we would impose a $100 billion re-entry tax on Jeff Bezos upon his return from outer space." 


Source: Equities News

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