Archive for the 'Worst-policy-ever' Category

The strange, strange world of tax

January 18th, 2007

As I mentioned below, I just got a new laptop. Despite the fact that it cost twice as much as a desktop. Why?

Section 58X(2)(h) of the Fringe Benefits Tax Assessment Act 1986, which says:

each of the following is an eligible work related item : […] a notebook computer, a laptop computer or a similar portable computer;

Which sounds fair enough, but compare it to 58X(3):

A mobile phone or a car phone is only an eligible work related item if the phone is primarily for use in the employee’s employment.

Yup, that’s right – laptops count as a eligible work item (and are FBT exempt) even if there’s no business use at all. But desktops aren’t covered at all. So what’s the result? Well, my very expensive laptop is going to cost me less than the desktop that costs half as much retail.

On related ‘strange policy impacts’ news, Apple will be charging $5 to enable a chip already in their computers. Why?

The reason for the fee, Jeremy Horwitz reports for iLounge is that “the Core 2 Duo Macs weren’t advertised as 802.11n-ready, and a little law called the Sarbanes-Oxley Act supposedly prohibits Apple from giving away an unadvertised new feature for one of its products. Hence, said the Apple rep, the company’s not distributing new features in Software Update any more, just bug fixes. Because of Sarbanes-Oxley… It’s about accounting. Because of the Act, the company believes that if it sells a product, then later adds a feature to that product, it can be held liable for improper accounting if it recognizes revenue from the product at the time of sale, given that it hasn’t finished delivering the product at that point.”

So far it isn’t clear whether or not this is really true (or just) a convenient excuse for Apple. But if it’s true then it’s a prime example of the unintended consequences of policy. They wanted to make sure that companies recorded their revenue properly, but obviously the wording (either in the act or the regulations of the SEC) just isn’t tight enough.


Stupid, stupid policy

January 8th, 2007

From ABC News is this brain dead bit of policy:

Australian Young Labor is calling on the ALP to adopt a policy of not taxing people under 18.

Young Labor president Sam Crosby says it is unfair that those aged under 18 have to pay tax even though they cannot vote.

OK, let’s ignore the ‘taxing people under 18’ bit. Let’s just think about the ‘cannot vote’ thing and what that implies:

  • only citizens have to pay taxes;
  • people who don’t pay tax can’t vote; and
  • people who don’t live in Australia don’t have to pay tax.

Stupid, stupid justification for the policy. If you’re going to advocate new policy (and it’s an idea interesting enough to debate), please don’t try to justify it using this fairness argument that a 3-year-old could see through.


From the Annals of Laws Certain to be Followed

May 15th, 2006

The Australian Government Attorneys General’s Department has just announced (long overdue) changes to copyright law with respect to making personal copies of television shows and CDs. Most of it seems fairly sensible, albeit long overdue. But one aspect of it strikes me as… somewhat optimistic about the willingness of Australians to comply:

The first private use exception will allow consumers to record most television and radio programs to view or listen to once at a later time (known as ‘time-shifting’). This exception will not allow a recording to be used over and over again or to be distributed by others. (Emphasis added).

So you can tape a TV show, but you can only watch it once. Sadly, the current press release does not address the important question of whether or not you’re allowed to rewind the tape to watch a bit again if someone phones you during the program. Or whether you’re allowed to fast forward the ads or not.

(And I note that the genius types at Slashdot failed to pick up on this aspect entirely…)

(And this is probably a good moment to point towards the Disclaimer over on the right).