I read a very surprising article in USA Today the other day. It seems that we American consumers of telephone services have been paying an excise tax on our phone bills for a heck of a long time. Apparently, this tax was imposed back in 1898 -- get this -- to help pay for the Spanish-American War. Well, that war ended before the 20th century even began, and we're well into the 21st century now. Doesn't it seem like something's wrong here? Doesn't it make you think about banding with friends and tossing your phones into Boston Harbor?
The article made me dig out my last phone bill from Verizon
Even folks at AT&T
Fortunately, some in Congress agree, too. Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) and nearly 100 co-sponsors recently introduced legislation to repeal the tax. USA Today noted: "This year, consumers and businesses will fork out another $6 billion in general excise taxes -- enough to pay for the Spanish-American War all over again, notes Rep. Christopher Cox, (R-Calif.)." Other businesses supporting repeal include Verizon, SBC, Time Warner
Courts have been finding the tax groundless, too, siding with consumers against the IRS more than half a dozen times.
In SmartMoney, Donald Luskin noted that some anti-war activists are refusing to pay the tax, arguing that it supports the war in Iraq. Luskin also added: "According to the San Francisco Examiner, AT&T says 'we believe this is an illegal tax.' Ask them in writing to remove the tax from your bill, and they'll do it. 'We'll go into our system and make an adjustment,' AT&T says. But, they warn, 'we will have to report you to the government.'"
And by the way, if thinking about taxes in general makes your head hurt and you'd like an actual person (a financial pro, no less) to talk to about your financial situation, look into our TMF Money Advisor. It's a valuable service, featuring customized, personalized independent advice from a variety of objective financial experts.
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Time Warner and Comcast. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.