Hungary will shelve plans for Internet tax for now, PM says

Tens of thousands of Hungarians hold up their mobile phones as they march across the Elisabeth Bridge during a protest against new tax on Internet data transfers in centre of Budapest, on Oct 28, 2014. Hungary will shelve plans to introduce a ta
Tens of thousands of Hungarians hold up their mobile phones as they march across the Elisabeth Bridge during a protest against new tax on Internet data transfers in centre of Budapest, on Oct 28, 2014. Hungary will shelve plans to introduce a tax on Internet data traffic that has generated big protests over the past week, and will revisit regulating and taxing money made online next year, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BUDAPEST (REUTERS) - Hungary will shelve plans to introduce a tax on Internet data traffic that has generated big protests over the past week, and will revisit regulating and taxing money made online next year, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.

A provision that extended a telecommunications tax to online data traffic will be withdrawn, Orban said.

"This tax in its current form cannot be introduced because the government wanted to extend a telecommunications tax, but the people see an Internet tax," Orban told public Radio Kossuth, after remaining silent on the controversy for more than a week.

"If the people not only dislike something but also consider it unreasonable then it should not be done ... The tax code should be modified. This must be withdrawn, and we do not have to deal with this now."

Orban, who took office in 2010, has rarely shied away from conflict. Once in power, his centre-right Fidesz party rewrote large swathes of Hungarian law, nationalised private pension- fund assets and taxed big business and banks to keep the budget deficit in check.

But the Internet levy provoked massive protests that showed public discontent with Orban's policies goes well beyond taxation. Orban said his government would not confront such massive popular discontent.

"Today we are at a point that the technical tax modification proposal that we launched a few days ago became a fear-inducing vision that has made it impossible to talk these things over,"Orban said.

He added that the government would start consultations next year over Internet regulation and potential ways to tax some of the revenue generated online.

"There are two questions," he said. "The question of Internet regulation, what can and cannot be done, and the financial questions of the Internet."

"We really should see somehow where the huge profits generated online go, and whether there is a way to keep some of it in Hungary and channel it into the budget."

He said a consultation on those two issues will begin in January 2015 and will probably wrap up in the first half of next year.