Iowa CSE Director Sounds Off in Effort to Repeal Federal Excise Tax

Letters to the Editor

Repeal excise tax on telecommunications



An excise tax on telecommunications instituted in 1898 to fund the Spanish-American War still penalizes consumers every time they pick up the telephone (“Grassley: Repeal Old Phone Tax,” Feb. 2).

This month, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley proposed legislation to eliminate the federal excise tax. Grassley stands a good chance of succeeding where others have come up short. Last year, the House and the Senate passed a measure to eliminate the tax – on average more than $55 per household, but it suffered under the veto pen of President Clinton.

The tax is problematic for many reasons. First and foremost, it is a tax on communication – the basis of a free society and a healthy marketplace. In addition, it is regressive. This means that poor Americans feel its adverse effect more strongly. In today’s communications marketplace, many high-speed services are difficult to categorize based on antiquated definitions. In fact, the tax that Grassley and his Democratic co-sponsor, U.S. Senator John Breaux, seek to eliminate applies to “telegraph, teletype and telephone” service.

The Spanish-American War lasted a few months. The tax created to fund the war effort remains after more than a century. It is time, once and for all, to relegate it to the history books.

-Jason W. Gross, director, Iowa Citizens for a Sound Economy, 3111 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines.

[ This letter was published by the Des Moines Register Online