|From: Associated Press
WASHINGTON, DC (AP) -- In a move that some
Wall Street analysts are calling "staggering,"
the United States' Internal Revenue Service
announced in a joint press conference today
that they will be purchasing America Online,cInc.,
(NYSE: AOL), headquartered in Dulles, Virginia,
for an undisclosed amount.
AOL Chairman and CEO Steve Case, and President
and COO Robert W. Pittman, joined Commissioner
of Internal Revenue, Charles O. Rossotti,
in Washington, DC, to announce this merger.
Rossotti explained that, "[due] to their
high volume of American users, AOL is the
perfect agency for The Department of the Treasury
to venture into collecting information and
The IRS has announced that as soon as the
SEC approves the purchase, they will be changing
the current rate structure on AOL. AOL had
announced a rate change from their standard
$19.95 per month to $21.95, which was to be
implemented as of April 1, 1998. However,
the IRS has stated they will instead be lowering
the monthly rate to a base $4.95 per month.
On top of the base rate, they will be instituting
what is being termed a "usage" rate.
As an example, a single user would take 28%
of the number of minutes they are online and
multiply by ten cents per percentage point.
Thus, a user on line for 60 minutes would
incur a usage cost of an additional $1.68.
Now, a married couple would take 37 ½%
of the number of minutes they are online and
multiply by ten cents per percentage point,
hence, 60 minutes would incur a usage cost
of $2.25. However, should this married couple
have a child under the age of 18, they can
deduct 2 ½% of each 5 minute interval
that any dependent is online. Additional usage
cost modifiers will be included as Congress
deems it necessary.
Case and Rossotti jointly stated that the
IRS believes, "this pricing structure
will persuade many Americans to migrate back
to using AOL for their Internet access and
for payment of their income taxes." AOL
will also be removing many of their advertising
banners due to the political ramifications
that may be brought into question by Congress
as, "favoritism," or, "wrongful
According to Rossotti, the main reason for
the proposed merger is
financial. The IRS intends to use revenue
generated by the base plus usage rates to
subsidize the rising costs associated with
the processing of the federal income taxes.
The IRS will also sell off the foreign units
of AOL consisting of Canada,
the United Kingdom (also serving Sweden),
France, Germany (also serving Austria and
Switzerland), and Japan. They expect that
these "branches" will spawn Europe
Online, Asia Online, and Canada Online, and
bring to the IRS an estimated $1.3 billion.
Another method of attempting to reduce the
processing costs, Rossotti
continued, is that in cooperation with the
Department of Social Security,
the IRS-AOL merger will allow AOL users to
file their income taxes under their screen
names rather than their social security numbers
through AOL. As an incentive for this "screen
name - income tax" plan to
work, known as IRS Initiative 257, the IRS
will be granting a 5% tax
reduction on all monies due for any AOL user
filing under their screen
name. Any refunds due back to AOL users will
be processed first, with no reduction.
The IRS has stated that they will set up a
toll-free number to handle
questions and calls concerning the merger
and any pricing structure
changes, or you may visit their website at
soon to be linked by http://www.aol.com/corp.
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