I guess we can finally declare victory in the Spanish-American War. That war was funded in part by a telephone excise tax, a tax that has lingered with us for more than a century since that brief conflict. The Bush administration said today it will no longer collect the 3% levy on landline and wireless phones and will offer refunds for the last three years, depriving the US Treasury of billions of dollars in annual revenue but returning to phone users -- which is just about everybody -- hard-earned money that should have been in their pockets to begin with. Federal courts repeatedly have told the IRS and the Administration that the tax was illegal, most recently in the 2nd Circuit.
Nobody likes taxes, but I particularly dislike taxes for which I can see no rational justification. The federal excise tax has to rank near the top of that list. Now the story isn't over here; this is an end to collection, and it is a logical outgrowth of court rulings, but I suspect a new administration could resume collection. We need Congress to formally repeal this tax; many efforts have been made on that front in the past, and occasionally a bill will even make some progress. But Congress to date has found itself incapable of turning off this spigot. I'm not sure what kind of persuasive powers the White House has with Congress right now, but I hope they use some of those powers to push through legislation that will make official what the US Treasury Department is now doing unofficially.