Space tourism tax proposed to boldly go where no tax has gone before

Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat who represents Portland and some of its suburbs, proposed a tax on space tourists on Tuesday, the same day that Bezos, his brother Mark, and two other passengers took a brief rocket trip to the edge of the ‘space.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which has a contract to deliver US astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station for NASA, also has plans for tourist flights to orbit the Earth as well as to the Moon in the years to to come. Ticket prices have not been disclosed but are believed to run into the millions.

“This is potentially going to be a very big business,” Blumenauer told CNN Business. “Why should a family taking kids to Legoland pay a 9.5% ticket tax and other fees on their plane tickets and space tourists who spend billions of dollars have- do they have tax-free tourism? “

It is too early to say at what rate a new space tourism tax should be levied, or what the collected money should be spent on, Blumenauer said.

“This is supposed to be the starting point of a conversation that is important to anticipate. Maybe we are already late,” he said, referring to recent space tourism flights. (The bill would exempt NASA space flights for scientific research purposes.)

Space tourism companies have all benefited from the taxpayer-funded U.S. space program, he added, and argued that the companies would not be hurt or forced to change countries for their launches.

“We are talking about something that is not a huge, heavy tax. These are people who can afford to pay whatever the tax is,” he said.

Blumenauer dubbed his bill the Securing Carbon Shields Tax Act (SPACE). Rockets that burn liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, like the Blue Origin rocket did on Tuesday, don’t emit carbon, only water vapor. But Blumenauer said even water vapor can damage the ozone layer. And the fuels used by Virgin and SpaceX emit carbon.

“I am not opposed to this type of space innovation,” he said in his announcement on the bill. “However, things that are done solely for tourism or entertainment, and which have no scientific purpose, should in turn support the public good.”

Neither Blue Origin, Galactic Virgo (SPCE) nor SpaceX responded to a request for comment on the tax proposal.

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