This site last updated March 30, 2012.
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almost 40 years of
phone tax resistance

For almost 40 years I have refused to pay the federal tax on my local telephone bill.When I began in 1971, it was a negligible amount—20¢-25¢ a month.At the end of the year, notices from the IRS to pay up might have come to $2.15. Still IRS persisted in trying to collect the $2.15. They even levied my bank account for trivial amounts. Today IRS no longer institutes levies for telephone tax resistance. Please note that Congress has revoked the federal excise tax on long distance calls. However, the federal tax on local calls is still in effect.

why have i persisted?

My persistance or perhaps stubbornness (some phone companies require customer contact before they deduct the tax) in refusing to pay the tax rests on:

  1. The need to remember the past—What began as a revenue-producing measure to fund the Spanish American War has for the last century become a regular source of revenue in wartime. During the Vietnam War Wilbur Mills, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, reacting to the desparate need for increased revenue, said “It is Vietnam and only the Vietnam operations, which makes this bill necessary.” In 1990, rather than allowing the tax to expire, Congress extended it at 3%, this time as a permanent revenue measure.

  2. Exercising the will to say no to the government. At the end of the year, I add up my monthly telephone tax. What used to be a few dollars is now over $15—not an overwhelming amount but better put in the good service of peace than toward war. I send a contribution to the New York City People's Life Fund, where the money is recycled to worthwhile community groups.

This first step toward putting money where your mouth is may seem inconsequential. But if it's a first step, if it spawns determination, if it becomes the first of many steps, then it is indeed a powerful beginning.

—Sallie Marx

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