Violent Video Game Tax Ignores 1st Amendment

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ELECTRONIC ARTS, INC. (Origin Store)

by Brian White

According to the Washington Examiner in an article posted today, the House Ways and Means Committee has singled out violent video game developers in a tax reform bill.

I doubt Frank Underwood would stand for this.

You can read the entire tax reform bill here.  Specifically, the issue first pops up on page 19, which mentions “an improved, permanent R&D tax credit, finally giving American manufacturers the certainty they need to compete against their foreign competition who have long had permanent R&D incentives.”  Now, all sorts of companies receive this tax credit.  Food companies, manufacturers, and yes, software companies like EA.

It’s page 24 of the bill you, the gamer, the American citizen, should take a look at.

This tax reform act, according to page 24, prevents makers of violent video games from qualifying for the R&D tax credit.  (Their words.)  Keep reading past that, too.  On the next page, “The Tax Reform Act of 2014 stops the practice of using the tax code to pick winners and losers…”  Um, what?  If I’m keeping score correctly, they just picked a winner (them) and a loser (Freedom of Speech).  Singling out, specifically, violent video game developers flies right in the face of that “winners and losers” line.  Note that they mean any developer who makes violent games, not the games themselves.  It means that a company like EA would lose this credit whether they made a new FIFA or a new Battlefield-simply because they made violent video games before.  It means that a smaller, indie developer like Dennaton Games could make an educational title-and lose that tax credit because, hey, they made Hotline Miami.

It means that First Amendment rights are being trampled on.

Refer to this article in Forbes, from 2011.  Whatever side of the fence you’re on; whether you view video games as an art form (they are) or you see them as silly diversions, the fact is that video games are legally classified as art.  Which entitles games, and the people that make them, to the same rights and protections afforded to artists, movie studios, and writers.  Art, as you may or may not know, is in fact protected by the First Amendment.  So there’s really no argument here; what these lawmakers are doing, is taxing something solely because they don’t like it.

That’s simply, without question, wrong.  It’s immoral, it’s unethical, and, hell, it’s probably illegal.  Considering, again: video games=art=First Amendment.

Shadow of the Colossus is art.  It can also be considered violent.  Is it fair to tax this too?

Let’s say you’re a cat person.  And you’re a member of Congress.  Would you push for higher taxes on dog food simply because you don’t like dogs?

No?  Why not?  Probably because it’s wrong?

Where are violent movies in this tax reform bill?  Oh, wait, that’s right.  Movies get all sorts of tax breaks.  Artists get government grants to create things.  Make no mistake; I love movies and I love art.  But you can’t try to quash one form of art over the other simply because you don’t like it.  Vice President Joe Biden once said he “didn’t see any legal problem taxing violent video games.”  There’s a HUGE problem with that: you’d be forcing consumers to pay more for something you don’t approve of.  Is that in any way ethical?

I don’t think so.  Am I wrong?  Does it make sense to you, to deprive a game developer of a tax credit they deserve, as artists, because you don’t approve of the art they’re creating?

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Brian White is a Staff Writer at B-TEN.com

He’s quite unhappy about taxing works of art.

Follow him on Twitter @WingZero351

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