Hanging up the Phone Tax

The federal excise tax on long-distance phone calls, which began as part of the Spanish-American War effort in 1898, was repealed in May by the U.S. Treasury Department. Thousands of war tax resisters have refused to pay the federal phone tax since the mid-1960s, when the tax was extended to assist military operations in Vietnam. The tax, which has varied from 1 to 10 percent, raised nearly $89 billion from 1966 to 2001 and $6 billion per year since, according to the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee.

“We’re happy to see a regressive tax end,” Ruth Benn, of National War Tax Resistance, told Sojourners. “However, we know that this will have no immediate effect on military spending, which has been the focus of our war tax resistance campaigns.” Taxpayers can file for refunds of the federal excise tax billed to them on all long-distance calls made after Feb. 28, 2003. The Senate is considering a bill that would repeal the federal excise tax on local phone calls as well.

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