I see several mentions in recent news of a proposed tax on launches in the state of California, and that it would be 'by the mile'.

If someone is familliar with the issue, could they outline how this works? Is it just maximum altitude, or total integrated path length? This distinction is quite significant when comparing launch to orbit and tourist sub-orbital missions. Is there a hard cut-off at the Karman line?

I assume it applies to rocket propulsion, and not jet engines, but what about balloons and mixed combos?

Quartz: California’s plan to tax rockets by the mile is exactly what space companies want (what's next, speeding tickets?) note there are links to pdfs in this article that seem to contain some tax language.

San Francisco Chronicle: California plans for collecting taxes on spaceflight

Ars Technica: California seeks to tax rocket launches, which are already taxed (The tax will be based upon "mileage" traveled by that spacecraft from California)

Parabolic Arc: California Considers Tax on Launches Within the State


The official draft

It appears that "milleage" is in fact understood as "altitude":

if a company can’t reveal the specifics of its mission due to confidentiality concerns — common with contracts with the military — a launch’s mileage will be presumed to be 310 miles under the proposed rules. (For reference, the International Space Station is about 250 miles above the Earth.) src

The project defines which part of receipt from the launch is taxable - it applies to portion of altitude "within California aerospace" - 62 miles. If launch brings receipt X(\$), and goes to altitude Y(miles), taxable part of receipt is $X\cdot {62 \over Y}$.

Then the proposal goes into a lot of detail over how to apply that portion as a portion of receipt globally, in proportion to total sum of altitudes achieved by the company globally, which becomes quite convoluted and entirely tax law, no longer really a "space" subject, so excuse me, I really don't want to get into that.

  • $\begingroup$ $X \ \cdot \ max(\frac{62}{Y}, \ 1)$ ? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 10 '17 at 5:20
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for the ftb link! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 10 '17 at 5:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh: X * ( (Y>=62)? 62/Y : 0 ) Only launches to cross the Karman line are taxed with this. OTOH this is also based on "mission plan" - not actual launches. "Attempted launches" are counted; if the rocket blows up on the launchpad, you still pay. Note also "in relation to total" applied afterwards: BlueOrigin would be worst off nearly all of its flight in "taxed area". OTOH launches to Mars would be pennies, as the total distance/altitude totally overshadows the atmospheric part. Also, this is counted "to payload separation", how they plan to decide where payload starts is beyond me. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    May 10 '17 at 6:42
  • $\begingroup$ That could bring a whole new meaning to the term "death and taxes", also here. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 10 '17 at 6:56

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