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kamnet
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 9:42 am    Post subject: Will Vonage End 3% Fed Excise Tax? Reply with quote Back to top

Cellphone rulings could mean billions in tax refunds
By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY

Phone customers are due $9 billion in tax refunds and a 3% cut in wireless phone and long-distance bills, according to a series of federal court decisions.
But the federal government continues to collect the tax and requires so much paperwork for refunds that only big corporations are likely to benefit.

On Friday, a court in Washington, D.C., became the third federal appeals court since May to void the tax. Two other federal appeals courts, covering seven states, have ruled the tax unlawful, and cases are pending elsewhere in the nation's 13 appeals courts. In all, nine federal courts have ruled that a 3% federal tax doesn't apply to phone calls that are priced only by how long a person talks — not by how far the call travels.

That means cellular phones, Internet phone service and about one-third of long distance calls would be exempt from the tax. The wireless industry estimates that consumers would save about $4.5 billion a year. Taxpayers also would be due three years of refunds — about $9 billion.

The cellphone industry wants the tax removed immediately from bills and the money refunded. "Our customers shouldn't be paying a tax that courts have repeatedly found illegal," says Steve Largent, president of CTIA-The Wireless Association and a former Republican congressman.

The Bush administration has not said whether it will appeal to the Supreme Court. "It's a matter subject to litigation, and that's all we can say," Treasury Department spokesman Taylor Griffin says.

An appeals court decision in May voided the law in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The government did not appeal but continues to require phone companies to collect the tax in those states and pass it on to the federal government.

"It sounds absurd, but the law is written so that the government can keep collecting a tax even though it's been ruled unlawful," says Hank Levine, a lawyer representing businesses that challenged the tax. Federal law makes it nearly impossible to get an injunction to stop the government from collecting a tax, he says.

The average consumer would be entitled to a refund about the size of the average $49.52 monthly bill paid by the USA's 195 million wireless subscribers. However, consumers would be required to seek refunds individually, documenting how much they paid each quarter in separate claims.

The time limit for refunds is three years. A person entitled to a $50 refund would have to fill out forms a dozen times to get the three years' worth of refunds permitted under tax law. Collecting records and preparing the form would take about seven hours.

"I don't think many people will make the effort," says Brad Waterman, a tax attorney in Washington.

Big businesses would benefit most from refunds, especially those with large international phone bills. Convergys, which operates call centers around the world, has filed for a refund of more than $6 million. OfficeMax, a retailer, seeks $380,000.
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bwilley
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 11:32 am    Post subject: so how do we file Reply with quote Back to top

any word how to file for the refund?

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 12:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's about time!!!! I, for one, am sick and tired of paying all of these bogus taxes on anything and everything dealing with communications and technology these days!!! That's one of the reasons I left Verizon (and their over-priced phone service)! Give up one for the lawyers on this one!!!

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 12:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Some additional info on this:

Quote:
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/251575_wartax10.html

Many refuse to pay 'war tax' on phone bill

Providers go along; IRS frowns, but does little

Saturday, December 10, 2005

By M.L. LYKE
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

For Seattle peace activist Bert Sacks, the monthly act of resistance adds up to only 59 cents. Symbolically, however, refusing to pay the "war tax" on his Qwest phone bill represents a pocketbook protest against what he sees as misuse of U.S. military power.

"I object to the U.S. government policy of using famine and epidemic as tools against civilian populations. That's wrong," says the retired engineer, who has fought for a decade to get economic sanctions against Iraq lifted.

Sacks is one of thousands of Americans believed to be refusing to pay the federal taxes attached to their monthly phone bills -- money that helps fund military operations overseas.

Many are taking the step as a protest against the war in Iraq. And in many cases, the phone companies are helping them do it.

"We oppose the policies of 'pre-emptive war' and an 'endless' war on terrorism, which led to the Iraq war, which violate human rights and international law, and which have cost us hundreds of billions of dollars while our states and cities face unprecedented deficits, and cutbacks of vital services and programs," reads the statement on a Web site called hanguponwar.org.

Although many activists have been withholding the phone tax since the Vietnam War, the act of disobedience is making headlines again as more Americans began to question the rationale for the Iraq war. A New York Times/CBS News Poll released this week shows that 52 percent of Americans believe that the Bush administration intentionally misled the public when its officials made the case for war.

The so-called tax resisters risk the wrath of the Internal Revenue Service. Yet that hasn't stopped them. Sacks said he has never been contacted about it, and he is not worried he will be. "After all, I've refused to pay a $10,000 fine, still in court now," he said.

Sacks was fined $10,000 for violating economic sanctions against Iraq by taking $40,000 worth of medicine to help suffering children there.

Ruth Benn, who runs the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee in New York, said it is impossible to know for sure how many people are participating in the grass-roots movement.

"Before the war started, when the peace movement was really big, there was quite a bit of interest. Now it's picking up again," Benn said.

She said communications received by her organization and discussions with other protest coordinators suggest that at least 10,000 people nationwide are withholding federal excise tax payments because of the war.

"This is civil disobedience, and you can be at risk," Benn, 53, said. "But the government listens when it involves money. This is a good way to get their attention."

As it turns out, most phone companies aren't shedding any tears over missed federal excise tax payments. It's not that they sympathize with protesters' feelings about the war. They just don't like the tax.

Qwest Communications International Inc., which provides local phone service to most of the Seattle area, thinks the excise tax is "a silly tax that should go away," company spokeswoman Shasha Richardson said.

The Denver-based company said it adjusts customers' bills to remove the excise tax. It then complies with IRS Publication No. 510, Richardson said.

That publication requires providers of local, toll or private communications services to impose and collect a 3 percent tax on services rendered. If customers fail to pay it, the companies must give the IRS a list of those customers' names and addresses, the services provided, the dates and the amounts the customers owed.

Some phone companies may repeatedly insist that the money is due. Others, such as Qwest, make it easy for the protester.

"We believe this is an illegal tax, and we would support any legislation that repeals it," said John Britton, a spokesman for AT&T.

He said AT&T will routinely eliminate federal excise taxes from customers' monthly bills if asked to do so in writing.

"We'll go into our system and make an adjustment," Britton said. "But we will have to report you to the government."

For its part, Cingular Wireless sends a letter to tax-resisting customers agreeing that the federal excise tax is "antiquated and discriminatory" and that it has "has far outlived its purpose."

"Please be aware, however," Cingular's letter warns, "that as required by law, Cingular Wireless will report your non-payment, and provide your name, address, amount of tax written off to the IRS."

Cingular, MCI and Verizon Wireless all say they adjust customers' monthly bills to write off the federal excise tax on a regular basis.

Tax resisters such as Benn advise would-be protesters to include a note with their phone payments explaining why they are not paying the tax. The note will make clear to the phone company what's happening and, in most cases, deter the carrier from cutting off one's service.

The federal excise tax on phone usage dates back to 1898. It was adopted under the War Revenue Act as a temporary levy to help fund the Spanish-American War. The war ended in October of that year. The tax was repealed in 1902 but didn't stay gone for long. It was reintroduced during World War I and was subsequently used to help fund the nation's military activities during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

The tax was given permanent status in 1990. It raises about $6 billion a year for general federal expenditures, including military spending.

Aspects of the federal excise tax have been challenged in recent court decisions. Nevertheless, the IRS still insists that it be paid in full. Though phone companies are legally obligated to try to collect the federal excise tax, they have no enforcement power.

Because the amount of federal excise-tax money withheld per household is so small, it's highly unusual nowadays for the IRS to go after people for not paying.

Jesse Weller, an IRS spokesman, said that failure to pay the federal excise tax on phone bills is against the law.

"There is no law that permits a person to refuse to file a federal tax return or pay a federal tax based on what the government spends on programs or policies they disagree with," he said.

"This includes failure to pay the telephone excise tax based on moral, ethical or religious opposition to government spending for weapons programs or military operations," he stressed.

Moreover, he insisted that the IRS is determined to identify all those who evade taxes "based on their opposition to government policies or programs."

Weller said such people may be liable for all unpaid taxes, as well as interest and penalty fees.

Benn, at the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, said she hasn't paid her federal excise tax since 1980, and hasn't heard a word in all that time from the IRS.

"It's a pretty small thing," she said of the amount she denies the government each month. "It won't end the war all by itself. But perhaps it will help."
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navydavy2001
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 1:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

What a crock. Sure, that's the way to end the war. Morons. Less body armor for troops and one less meal a day. Incredible.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 2:41 pm    Post subject: Re: so how do we file Reply with quote Back to top

bwilley wrote:
any word how to file for the refund?


All of this came courtesy of my friend Michael Hampton, Dept. of Homeland Stupidity - http://www.ioerror.us/


IRS Form 8849, Claim for Refund of Excise Tax:
http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8849.pdf

IRS Form 8849 Schedule 6, Other Claims:
http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8849s6.pdf


----

If you want to tax me for a war, that is fine. What is wrong with coming right out and saying that you're going to attach a tax to pay for a war, though? The average American has no idea what our government actually does with the 3% FET, just like it doesn't have much of a clue what happens with ANY of their taxes and levies and other fees they pay on their phone bills.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 3:37 pm    Post subject: Re: so how do we file Reply with quote Back to top

kamnet wrote:

If you want to tax me for a war, that is fine. What is wrong with coming right out and saying that you're going to attach a tax to pay for a war, though? The average American has no idea what our government actually does with the 3% FET, just like it doesn't have much of a clue what happens with ANY of their taxes and levies and other fees they pay on their phone bills.


Realistically, the phone tax is not paying for the war. It is going into the general fund, to be spent as wisely (or not) as every other dollar that comes in is spent.

Not paying a particular tax to protest a war basically means less income for the government. The congresscritters and white house could care less where the money comes from - if they feel it necessary to do something, they'll do it, and just cut spending somewhere else, raise taxes somewhere else, or borrow money.

So, much as I hate the telecommunications tax, or any other of the myriad taxes, protesting by nonpayment of a specific tax will go ignored by anyone who you need to get the message to.

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kamnet
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

No I don't see it as being useful to protest a war, either. I'm just all for American citizens being told where their tax dollars go. The Federal Excise Tax needs to be eliminated. If they want a replacement tax to go in its place, Americans need to be told what it is and what it is goin gto do, and more importantly what it is going to do for them. It needs to go before our Congressional representatives who need to be told in plain English what it is, and they need to have the taxpayers voice their support or defeat of it before it gets voted on.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 4:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

kamnet wrote:
No I don't see it as being useful to protest a war, either. I'm just all for American citizens being told where their tax dollars go. The Federal Excise Tax needs to be eliminated. If they want a replacement tax to go in its place, Americans need to be told what it is and what it is goin gto do, and more importantly what it is going to do for them. It needs to go before our Congressional representatives who need to be told in plain English what it is, and they need to have the taxpayers voice their support or defeat of it before it gets voted on.


While I agree to a point, and I also fear we are turning the thread political... I can't resist this one. At the risk of a well-deserved dinging from Dan...

Since when have we ever had control of which dollars go where based on paying them through a particular tax?

"Targeted" taxes are largely, or more likely completely, a myth. Politicians will use sympathy for a cause to levy taxes in support of that cause, but in reality, all monies go through the General Fund and are subject to the GAO budget process. But it's easier to pass a "books for the schoolchildren" or "armor for the at-risk soldier" tax than it is to pass a "large raises for the congresscritters" tax. Wink

Not that the causes are bad ones. Just that the taxes don't really go directly to the causes. It's all in the marketing - everyone can absorb a tax when we can be convinced that it pays for something we all believe in.

Even in the rare case (not like the telcom tax) where a specific, audited tax is there exclusively to support a specific cause, other General Fund taxes will be diverted away from it, usually in the amount raised by the "targeted" tax. Sometimes more.

Not that protesting against the tax is wrong per se, since it's obviously an illegitimate tax, but it's not a protest against the war. Or at least not a useful one.

So, to answer your question, we all know EXACTLY where all taxes go. The General Fund. What expenditures they are used on from there has little, probably nothing, to do with where they come from.

Smile

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

NateHoy wrote:
While I agree to a point, and I also fear we are turning the thread political... I can't resist this one. At the risk of a well-deserved dinging from Dan...


LOL, you have enough post under your belt to get away with it, once.

Smile

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