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Refund of Long-Distance Telephone Taxes 303

Posted by Zonk
from the something-new-to-go-with-my-1040-oh-joy dept.
pertelote writes "Over 108 years after financing the Spanish American War, the tax on long-distance phone calls is finally being repealed. The IRS is supposed to refund our last three years worth of taxes for both landlines and cell phones on our returns next year. The phone companies sued because they did not want the hassle of collecting the tax. The tax is no longer in effect on 31 July, 2006." Don't get too excited about a big windfall. From the article: "Consumers, who pay about 40 percent of the taxes collected, typically pay about $18 a year in excise taxes if they have a long-distance service and a cellphone. They will be able to file for a refund on their 2006 federal income tax returns."
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Refund of Long-Distance Telephone Taxes

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  • Photo Op? (Score:5, Funny)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Friday May 26, 2006 @10:28AM (#15409553) Journal
    Is the president going to play dress-up, get into an air force uniform, land on an air craft carrier near the Straight of Gibraltar and declare the Spanish American War finally over?
    • Re:Photo Op? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by arivanov (12034) on Friday May 26, 2006 @10:42AM (#15409646) Homepage
      Neah... Forget it...

      After all his clone on this side of the pond did not bother getting on board of the HMS Illustrious to declare the end of the Great War with Germany finally over on the 24th November 2005.

      For the humour and history defficient out there:

      1. Britain introduced drinking establishment licensing laws to improve the quality of ammunition shipped to the German front in WWI and minimise the number of workers showing up to work incapacitated. Hurray for the war effort against the great enemy, hurray, hurray
      2. These laws stayed in force till 24th November 2005
      3. When the changes of the laws were discussed and introduced every single idiot neocon in the country was prophessing that the world will end on 24th November 2005 or soon thereafter. It is still there and still as boring as it was.

      And do not even get me started on income tax and napoleonic wars...
      • Re:Photo Op? (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        After all his clone on this side of the pond did not bother getting on board of the HMS Illustrious to declare the end of the Great War with Germany finally over on the 24th November 2005.

        Well, not for us Germans. In 1902, Kaiser Wilhelm introduced a champagne tax (which actually affects everything above a certain alcohol level) to finance the German navy. It was abolished 1933 but reintroduced 1939 (again, to pay for the fleet and the war in general). It still exists... :)
    • Re:Photo Op? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ArsenneLupin (766289)
      Is the president going to play dress-up, get into an air force uniform, land on an air craft carrier near the Straight of Gibraltar and declare the Spanish American War finally over?

      ... with a huge "Mission Accomplished" banner floating overhead!

    • Re:Photo Op? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by artifex2004 (766107)

      Is the president going to play dress-up, get into an air force uniform, land on an air craft carrier near the Straight of Gibraltar and declare the Spanish American War finally over?

      Don't even joke about that, as part of his constituency believes the U.S. is being invaded by "reconquistadors."
      Not to mention that it's a lot easier to ship people to Guantanamo from Mexico. Oh, he'd probably use that as an excuse to try to "liberate" Havana, like in 1898. Cuba was the only Spanish colony in the area that we

      • Re:Photo Op? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Martin Blank (154261)
        While I realize that the 'reconquistadores' are a small minority, there really are those who believe that the American Southwest was stolen from Mexico and that it should and must be returned to Mexico. There's an even smaller minority within that group that believes that Aztlan -- comprised in their view of the American Southwest and roughly half of Mexico -- should be combined into its own nation separate from the USA and Mexico.
    • Re:Photo Op? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by TheGreek (2403)
      Is the president going to play dress-up, get into an air force uniform, land on an air craft carrier near the Straight of Gibraltar and declare the Spanish American War finally over?

      I wouldn't call it "over" just yet [wikipedia.org].
  • by XorNand (517466) * on Friday May 26, 2006 @10:30AM (#15409563)
    The Federal Excise Tax is typically the only tax that US-based VoIP carriers charge their subscribers (if they charge any). Having help start a VoIP company myself, I never understood why other providers charged this tax. We were advised by council that VoIP is not classfied as a "telecommunications service" but rather an "information service" by the FCC, hence was not subject to the tax. Therefore we've never collected a dime in taxes (other than sales tax on equipment sales, of course). I wouldn't expect Vonage to be pocketing that extra 3%, but I wouldn't put it past some of the other companies out there.

    FYI: The "Regulatory Recovery Fee" isn't a tax, it's a surcharge that carriers levy to offset the cost of having to comply with federal regulations. However, IMHO, it's a bit disingenuous for VoIP companies to charge this fee since they aren't actually regulated.
    • While we might not be "regulated", many VoIP companies use the "Regulatory fees" to recover their costs when those same fees are passed on to us on the circuits we buy. Facilities-based providers (especially small ones that are buying DIDs "PBX-style" on T1s) are often paying fees and taxes on those lines the same way a medium-size business would.

      But, on the other hand, if you think the "regulatory compliance fees" you pay on your landline bill don't just go into the pocket of the phone company, you need t
      • Every business pays myriad taxes (which may or may not get passed to the customer, depending on how price sensitive the customer is and how competitive the market is.) VoIP providers are not regulated, hence a "regulatory recovery fee" is a non-sequitur. Adding an extra line-item fee, buried in the fine print along with obsure sounding taxes, is being deliberately disingenuous.

        I don't doubt that telcoms started the whole dishonest trend and are the biggest perpetuators. It's just unfortunate that some VoIP
  • by Tweekster (949766) on Friday May 26, 2006 @10:33AM (#15409583)
    This would be a clear cut case of fraud. Since the tax was imposed for a specific reason and obviously has not been used for that in the last 100 years or so, someone should go after the Federal Govt for fraud. Now that would be interesting.

    It isnt that far fetched either, say your local community imposed an extra $20 on property taxes to be used for technology in schools and in reality it was used to buy a new Benz as a "govt vehicle" for the mayor, there would be significant problems.
    • nah, direct income tax was brought in in England as a temporary measure to help cover a government shortfall, well over a hundered years later we're still paying it... this stuff happens all the time, governments rarely have true hypothecated taxes; and even if they did I doubt that they'd be legally bound to it
    • Unless the original legislation specifically states that the tax was enacted to defeat those damn'd Spaniards, "fraud" strikes me as overreaching. It'd be more like a company raised its prices because its suppliers were charging them more, then decided to keep them at that level when it discovered that the market would bear that price even after its suppliers' prices dropped again. Bad administration? Sure. Greedy? No argument with that. But criminal? Doubt it.
      • That would be a private company, as opposed to a government giving you no (realistic) choice but to comply. This is like if the government says "We do not torture", then doing so anyway when they discover the people support it. Oh, wait...
      • It'd be more like a company raised its prices because its suppliers were charging them more, then decided to keep them at that level when it discovered that the market would bear that price even after its suppliers' prices dropped again.

        The oil companies have been doing this for a long time. If the price of oil goes up the price of oil products tends to go up quickly, but if the price goes down the excuse tends to be "the stuff your putting in your car is made from oil we bought a few months back"...
    • I'm really hoping World War I ends soon, so we in Canada can be relieved of the burden of the Temporary War Measures Income Tax Act.
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Friday May 26, 2006 @10:34AM (#15409588) Homepage
    I don't want a refund. I want my money to go toward funding the FBI teams that are going after Rep. Jefferson. I want them expanded by several hundred agents and to have what happened to Jefferson to happen to the entire Congress. You want to save money? Bush the sons of bitches who spend nearly $2B on bridges to nowhere, $1B on repairing and then moving a perfectly good railroad and all of that other pork barrel crap. Sorry, they can keep my $18/year in exchange for the FBI continuing to go after these scumbags. I'd consider that some of the best $18 I've ever spent.
    • I don't want a refund. I want my money to go toward funding the FBI teams that are going after Rep. Jefferson. I want them expanded by several hundred agents and to have what happened to Jefferson to happen to the entire Congress. You want to save money? Bush the sons of bitches who spend nearly $2B on bridges to nowhere, $1B on repairing and then moving a perfectly good railroad and all of that other pork barrel crap. Sorry, they can keep my $18/year in exchange for the FBI continuing to go after these scu
      • The newly-elected replacements will preach financial responsibility and restraint for about two election cycles, then it will be right back where it was.


        I doubt it will take more than one cycle, because when they all want to get re-elected, they're gonna need some big campaign financing to fend off upstarts complaining about how the government isn't "creating jobs" by giving away money, anymore.
    • I want my money to go toward funding the FBI teams that are going after Rep. Jefferson. I want them expanded by several hundred agents and to have what happened to Jefferson to happen to the entire Congress.

      Jeeze dude, how much tax do you pay?
    • That would be great, except that the investigations of Republicans (or if the current administration were democrat, then democrats) wouldn't turn up any evidence of wrong-doing, but even saints in the other party would have cocaine residue and used condoms found in the couches in their offices...

      Regardless of what party you support, think about the tools you're willing to give one party in the hands of the most dispicable characters in the other party before you grant that power.
  • by pete6677 (681676) on Friday May 26, 2006 @10:34AM (#15409591)
    What do you bet the tax stays on your phone bill anyway? It is a well-known fact that phone companies attach all sorts of fees disguised as taxes, some of which actually go into their own pockets. So their costs will be lowered, but for phone customers its just another day.
  • hmm, nope, well past April 1st...
  • Income Tax (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mulhollandj (807571) on Friday May 26, 2006 @10:35AM (#15409598)
    Are they ever going to repeal income tax which was only supposed to be 2% max? Many of us pay over 50% in taxes if you include gas tax, sales tax, income tax, property tax, etc etc.
    • Re:Income Tax (Score:2, Informative)

      by ozmanjusri (601766)
      Many of us pay over 50% in taxes

      There's probably plenty of you who pay more than that. This year, your Tax Freedom Day falls on June 3 Tax Freedom Day [adamsmith.org]

      • I don't know what bracket you're in, but last year I paid just shy of 20% in taxes.
        That includes federal income tax, state & local sales tax, gas tax, property tax, and social security tax. The only tax I could think of that I didn't include was airport taxes, but most of those were going to foreign governments anyway. I think my tax freedom day was back in mid-March.
    • I call bullshit if you are living in the United States and make less than $200k a year. According to a report [taxpolicycenter.org] released at the end of last year by the Congressional Budget Office (congresses book-keepers), the effective federal tax rate for the United States (averaged across all households) was 20%. For the middle 20% of Americans making about $52k/household (pretax, 44.5k aftertax), the federal tax rate was less than 15%.

      For the fourth quintile, average income $77k, the tax rate was 18.7%. It is not u
      • Re:Income Tax (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kin_korn_karn (466864)
        A lot of this effective tax rate includes credits and deductions that only apply to couples with children. My wife and I have no plans to have kids (we don't want them, period) and we get fucked by taxes - no earned income credit, no childcare deductions, nothing.
        • by ghoul (157158)
          You deserve to be fucked in the ass with a broken broom. You dont want to have children and save money that way but at the same time you want social security payments in your old age paid by other peoples children , be protected from foreign invasions by other peoples children , treated when you are sick by other peoples children etc etc. People who dont have children are parasites on society. I propose all the people who dont have at least two children should be disqualified from collecting any social secu
  • by b17bmbr (608864) on Friday May 26, 2006 @10:35AM (#15409599)
    for those of here in California, you might remember the sales tax history. it was capped at 6% forever, then when the earthquake hit northern california in 1989, they allowed a "temporary" sales tax increase to help pay for it. Well, it's going on 17 years now and Los Angeles is 8.25% and isn't going down anytime soon. The same is true of spending. It only gets larger and grows, which is the source of our current economic problems and even longer term nightmare. I understand alot of the political sympathies around here, many at odds with mine (mostly foriegn policy related) but at least there'd be enough sentiment for small governemnt. big brother is big brother, whether he's listening to your phone calls OR taking half your paycheck.
    • So you don't think any of these problems are related to Proposition 13? [wikipedia.org]
  • by ReidMaynard (161608) on Friday May 26, 2006 @10:36AM (#15409607) Homepage
    It's over? Does Bush know about this?
  • VOIP (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bostonkarl (795447)
    This is all about VOIP. And how VOIP doesn't pay these taxes. Traditional services complete with VOIP.
  • The Nature of Taxes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geoffrobinson (109879) on Friday May 26, 2006 @10:45AM (#15409664) Homepage
    The only reason this is getting appealed is because it was originally for the Spanish American War (Remember the Maine!). It was a humourous enough example to get someone in Congress to actually repeal this tax.

    Generally, taxes never die. So be very cautious about adding a new one.

    Pennsylvania still has the "Jonestown Flood Tax". A 18% excise tax on alcohol meant to raise funds for the flood that occured in 1889 or something like that.

    • Right, and not only that - the other lesson is "Beware of taxes that apply only to the rich; they may one day apply to you too."
    • by im_mac (927998)
      That would be the Johnstown Flood tax and it was passed in 1936. Here's the PA Restaurants lobbying for a better alcohol taxes [parestaurant.org] and giving a bit more info.
      • by plague3106 (71849)
        PA has bigger problems relating to alcohol than taxing.

        Foremost, the state controls all alcohol sales. Last I heard though, they were doign to do a 'trial' and allow some grocery stores to sell beer and wine. What a forward thinking state! Nevermind that I think every state surrounding it has already allowed those alcohol products (and more) to be sold just about everywhere.

        Unfortunatly PA is ruled by a bunch of 80 year olds that don't want anything to change from the 1930s. Philadelphia offsets this so
        • Please don't underestimate the entrenched problems in Philadelphia.

          But yes, the case law for beer, state stores, etc. needs to go. Although they do get good discounts on wine due to volume purchases.
        • I had another thought and it relates to the point of taxes not going way.

          In Pa. you have something similar. That whole alcohol system was developed. And now, today, it remains the way it is not because of people's views of alcohol but mainly because it is an entrenched system. There are people with a vested stake in it remaining the same. And they will care more and have a louder voice than the vast majority of people who want change. The average person, in this case, is annoyed by the system but doesn't ha
        • The company I work for admitted they don't like hiring young people because middle aged (50 year old grandmas) are better workers. No wonder any young people flee this state after school. Its impossible to get hired unless you're over 35.
    • Pennsylvania still has the "Jonestown Flood Tax". A 18% excise tax on alcohol meant to raise funds for the flood that occured in 1889 or something like that.

      18% sales tax on alcohol? No wonder why those people in Jonestown drank all that Kool-aid...
  • by Mustang Matt (133426) on Friday May 26, 2006 @10:46AM (#15409676)
    If they already have our phone records, couldn't they just analyze them to see who is elgible for the refund?
  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Friday May 26, 2006 @10:51AM (#15409716) Homepage Journal
    The myriad of taxes on airline tickets. Ever since 1980 the feds have put a 10% tax on all airline tickets and the fund is doing nothing except offsetting the deficit. If you think about it, that's a ton of money. Airports got fed up and start charging PFC (passenger facility charges) which you see on yout ticket ranging from 3.00 - 6.00.

    Ever pay attention to the taxes on your tickets after you buy them? In some low cost fare markets it increases the cost by almost 100%.

    Then there's the "fuel surcharges" that airlines charge that never get refunded or repealed.

    At least regarding long distance I have a choice NOT to use a meatspace carrier like Verizon. Give me help with air travel! Yikes!
  • by DataCannibal (181369) on Friday May 26, 2006 @10:55AM (#15409751) Journal
    You Americans have it easy. We Brits are still paying income tax, which was originally raised to pay for the Napoleonnic wars !
  • we'll be able to itemize every cell phone user in our household, right? and each seperate phone line? And for the 8 month contract I did where i rented a house I had phone service at two locations?
  • by Sloppy (14984) on Friday May 26, 2006 @11:07AM (#15409850) Homepage Journal
    Now that the US defense is no longer funded, the time for a new Spanish conquest has arrived.
  • by EaglesNest (524150) on Friday May 26, 2006 @11:34AM (#15410033)
    The big crime, the excise tax on local phone service that applies to every land line, is still there. I haven't used a land line to make long distance calls in years. But I still have a land line. Wake me up when I can save money by not paying the tax on it.
  • by Johnny5000 (451029) on Friday May 26, 2006 @11:43AM (#15410095) Homepage Journal
    The good news is you'll get your $18 back since we don't need to fund the Spanish-American War anymore.

    The bad news is they're going to add a tax of $5000/year to your phone bill to fund the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and possibly Iran.
  • by vinnythenose (214595) on Friday May 26, 2006 @11:45AM (#15410111)
    Hey, don't complain, it's one less tax.

    Now up here in Canada if we could get rid of this "temporary wartime tax" from WWII that we call "Income Tax"... :)
  • by RexRhino (769423) on Friday May 26, 2006 @12:02PM (#15410233)
    Does this mean the Spanish-American war is finally over? Did we win?
  • by NorseWarrior (975051) on Friday May 26, 2006 @12:04PM (#15410242)
    We all acknowledge that there is some waste in government....until it comes to the programs you like! Taxes do good things--they generally build roads to somewhere...they pay for schools...they pay for police, fire, and other stuff. In business, you get what you pay for. In business, waste takes on forms like Ken Lay or Jeff Skilling....and other overpaid CEOs. (and, oh yes--it was GOVERNMENT, in the form of prosecutors, not stockholders, who held them accountable.!) Guess what--the principle works the same in government. You get what you pay for. You don't like it--then get involved in the process and change it. This phone tax is a red herring....a right-wing fakeout to avoid the fallout over huge tax cuts to the rich which vastly overshadow the cost of this little sop to the masses. I say keep my $18. Give me good roads, and good schools. Hunt down the criminals. Feed kids who go to bed hungry. And yes--make those who benefit the most in our society bear the burden for taking care of the least among us.
  • Because for years I had no long distance providers. I don't have any old phone bills to look at, because I have gone VoIP. I couldn't make long distance calls on my phone, when I had one. I set it up that way, so I'd have a predictable phone bill. I used calling cards. Are those taxed? I thought that I was taxed just for having phone service. Then again, they had so many fees and other taxes I could just be confused. Yet another reason to cut the cord to the baby bells.
  • Just in: Congress announced a new excise tax to fund the Iraq-American war. This duty will be levied on long distance phone service and collected by the phone companies on behalf of the IRS. The amount is tentatively set at $36 per year.
  • Let me get this straight. 60% of the refund will go to non-comsumers (i.e. businesses with people whose job it is to file forms claiming the money). The other 40% of the refund might go to consumers if they have records and if they remember to file.

    And this is being spun as 'the phone companies sticking up for the little guy'? That's some mighty fine spin, my friend!
  • The phone companies sued because they did not want the hassle of collecting the tax.

    If it's such a hassle to collect extra charges why do they persist with the silly touch-tone fee? They already have to collect other taxes so it isn't simply because the money doesn't go directly into their pockets.
  • Maybe we could start working on World War I now...

    Chris Mattern
  • Is this fair? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by d_54321 (446966)
    Great.
    When the tax is instituted, you have to pay it or men with guns come to your home.

    When the tax is repealed, you have to fill out a form to get your money back. That's fair.

    Why not just repeal the whole damn thing and replace it with something that makes more sense [fairtax.org]?
  • Since I firmly believe that well north of 50% of everything government does is bad or turns out badly, I always approve of tax cuts and tax rebates, regardless of the circumstances. And on those rare times when I am able to vote on a proposed tax increase, again regardless of the "cause" (tobacco taxes for example) I always, always vote NO! My motto is "Don't feed the beast!"
  • [a soft, scraping noise is heard as the soapbox is pushed closer to the keyboard]

    Am I the only American who has noticed that our governments, the Federal one in particular, have spiraled way out of control (I doubt it)? The Fed has usurped so many powers originally intended for the States that it only vaguely resembles what was laid out by our founders. It was never intended for our Senators and Representives to be full-time, sometimes lifelong (albeit by election) positions. Nowhere is an exclusivley tw
  • Does anyone else share my belief that this "refund" is a cleverly veiled conspiracy to have the masses of sheep-like Americans have a warm and fuzzy feeling about their phone company as the whole NSA / Tiered Internet thing goes down? Or is it just my twisted view?
  • by autophile (640621) on Friday May 26, 2006 @12:59PM (#15410703)
    Havana, Cuba (a colony of Spain), February 15, 1898

    USS Maine: Blam! Glug, glug, glug.
    America: WTF? Spain, can't you control your own damn harbor?!
    Spain: STFU
    Tomas Estrada Palma (head of Cuban Revolutionary Junta): Spain, I've got $150 million for you if you'll let us have independence.
    Spain: STFU
    American Democrats and Big Media: Free Cuba! Woohoo! Spain sux0rz!
    Prez. McKinley and Republicans: WTF, we don't need dat shit.
    Americans: Remember the Maine? Let's go kick some ass!

    (April 11, 1898)
    McKinley: Fine. Spain, GTFO of Cuba.
    Spain: STFU

    (April 25, 1898)
    McKinley: No, YOU STFU! We declare war! As of... uh... 5 days ago!
    Congress: Let's tax... inheritance! That oughta make us some bling-bling. Oh, and let's add one penny to the telephone bill. Only rich people have telephones, they can afford it.

    (June 10, 1898)
    US Marines: Ha ha, we ownz0r Guantanamo Bay! Freedom from torture for all!

    (August 12, 1898)
    Spain: Dios Mio! All our fleet are belong to you!
    America: Yay, we win! Give us all your wine. And tapas.

    Time Machine: Wowowowowow

    (1982)
    Congress: Let's set that war tax to 3% of the phone bill, that oughta keeps us in da bling-bling. But only until 1985.

    (1984)
    Congress: F Dat, we want to keep our bling-bling. At least until 1987.

    (1987)
    Congress: Mane, what were we thinking? Keep da bling-bling until... 1990?

    (1990)
    Congress: Too fun! Let's make it... permanent! Par-tee! Par-tee! Par-tee!

    (2000)
    Congress: That was stupid. Let's repeal the war tax.
    Clinton: Ah agree. But there's nothing in this big ol' Bill (heh heh) about that edumication spendin' ah wanted. Y'see, it all depends on what the meaning o' the word "Spanish-American War Tax" is. Ah veto this Bill (heh heh, I cain't never get enough o' that joke, now come set on daddy's lap).

    (2005)
    Internet: Congress, you are too stupid!
    Congress: Well, I guess we can try again.

IF I HAD A MINE SHAFT, I don't think I would just abandon it. There's got to be a better way. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

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