No, Pasadena Is Not Taxing Netflix Or Hulu Yet
There were some reports that the city of Pasadena had decided to begin taxing streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, with the caveat that other California cities might soon follow their lead. Pasadena Public Information Officer William Boyer tells LAist that this decision has in fact not been made, there are no new taxes, and that this is merely an issue that is up for review at this time.According to Mercury News, Pasadena is only one of 45 cities in the state that could begin taxing streaming platforms. MuniServices, the company that collects these taxes, has distributed a list of other such cities, which includes Santa Monica, Glendale and Culver City. Information about a possible tax for Pasadena residents originated due to a memo, which Boyer said was "in hindsight issued a bit prematurely in terms of its inclusion in the city manager newsletter."
L.A. Biz says the memo came from Matthew Hawkesworth, Pasadena's Finance Director, to City Manger Steve Mermell. The memo stated that the taxes would apply to any service that is like cable, which may include video gaming and streaming platforms,"regardless of the content of such video programming or the technology used to deliver such services."
While California residents must vote on all new taxes, the issue with this particular tax is that it might not be a new tax. There was a a 2008 voter-approved amendment to the Utility Users Tax (UUT), which was first established in 1969, that accounted for changes in technology.
Mercury News reported that these cities' hypothetical tax rates could range from 4.5 percent to 11 percent, with Pasadena's at 9.4 percent This amounts to a couple dollars here and there a month, but could add up if viewers are using multiple platforms. And that's easy to do: maybe you have Netflix for Orange is the New Black, HBO Go for Game of Thrones, Hulu for network series, and Amazon because you're really curious about the forthcoming Jean Claude Van Johnson. The discerning TV watcher might have as many as four of five of these services as opposed to investing in increasingly obsolete cable packages.
But as for now, Boyer says Pasadena is not receiving any new money and nothing has changed. In order for anything to happen, there would first need to be a "fair amount" of research done by the city attorney's office.
"Pasadena is very contemplative in what it does," he said. "There would be ample opportunity for the public [to weigh in], which [they have already done] on social media. So, there's nothing that would happen in the short-term at all."
So, stream away, Pasadena. For now.