The next frontier: Spaceflight taxes?

2

A senior Democrat has proposed a new tax on commercial spaceflights, shortly after Jeff Bezos touched down Tuesday from his brief, high-profile jaunt to the edges of space.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who is spearheading the effort, said rich space dilettantes should have to pay taxes for those flights, and noted special concern about the environmental impact of sending people into space on trips with no “scientific value.”

"Space exploration isn’t a tax-free holiday for the wealthy. Just as normal Americans pay taxes when they buy airline tickets, billionaires who fly into space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and then some,” Blumenauer said.

The details: The Oregon Democrat has not released text of his legislation yet, but he said it will include a per-passenger tax on the price of a commercial flight to space, similar to an airline ticket.

He's also calling for a two-tiered excise tax, the first of which would apply to suborbital flights between 50 and 80 miles above the earth's surface, and the second tier, a "significantly higher" tax, for flights more than 80 miles in the air.

The proposal calls for exemptions for NASA flights done for scientific research, and would include a pro-rata tax break for flights where some passengers are working for NASA and others not.

“I’m not opposed to this type of space innovation," Blumenauer said. "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.”

Ramping up: Beyond the two most recent and publicized trips of billionaires into space, private companies have big goals for the future, with Virgin Galactic planning to eventually launch shuttles every 32 hours on average.

The rapidly increasing pace of commercial space travel has raised regulatory issues, with some saying that the space office at the FAA is understaffed and overworked.

Blumenauer is not alone in worrying about the environmental impacts. “Commercial space launch vehicles emit a stunning amount of carbon dioxide,” said House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) to POLITICO earlier this week. “More carbon dioxide in a few minutes than an average car would in two centuries of driving.”

View original post