Poland to redraw media tax proposal following protests

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki arrives on the second day of a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium

Poland’s government said Tuesday it will redraw its proposed media advertising tax to make it fairer after it led to a media protest and condemnation from a coalition partner and critics abroad.

Independent media outlets suspended coverage for 24 hours last week in protest against the government’s proposal to tax advertising in the media and in cinemas.

The media companies say the tax would put many small news outlets out of business and undermine the freedom and variety of the country’s media landscape. They note they are already paying corporate tax from advertising and many other dues, while the government is generously subsidizing state-owned media.

Critics in the European Union and the United States have stressed the importance of freedom of speech and media in a democracy.

The proposal released earlier this month is in consultation stage through Tuesday and the government said it will take the criticism into account when it writes the draft bill. The government wants the new tax implemented July 1.

“We are reviewing all the suggestions made by various media groups and other interested parties and based on that a draft will be submitted that includes some of these remarks,” government spokesman Piotr Mueller said.

He claimed the proposal does not affect the small or regional media, but is directed at larger entities and “digital giants that often pay their tax dues in an unproportionate (low) way,” Mueller said.

A junior partner in the conservative coalition, the Agreement party, said last week it would not back the proposal in its current form, meaning the bill would not pass in parliament.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said the new tax is going to be progressive and fair.

The office of President Andrzej Duda, who has the right to veto legislation, said he will take a close look at the draft law when it is ready.

The government argues that its proposed “solidarity” tax would force giant companies like Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon to pay their fair share of taxes. It says the tax, which is linked to the size of companies, would raise some 800 million zlotys ( $215 million) and provide funds for health care and culture at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has badly strained state finances.

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