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Federal Excise Tax Fiasco, Revisited

The Spanish-American War may have ended over a century ago, but anyone in the U.S. with a telephone line is paying a 3 percent luxury tax created to fund the conflict in 1898 -- That's a situation that a number of Republican senators would like to change. This week, they introduced a bill to repeal the Spanish-American War levy. "Common sense dictates that repeal of the telephone excise tax is long overdue," said Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. "Communication is not a luxury. It has become part of the basic fabric of our social and economic life." Other sponsors of the Senate legislation include Republicans Mike Crapo of Idaho and Gordon Smith of Oregon. A related bill is pending in the House of Representatives. The obscure telecommunications tax took center stage in January when a congressional committee suggested the tax could be extended to include "all data communications services" including broadband, dial-up, fiber, cable modems, cellular and DSL (digital subscriber line) links. In addition, the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department have said they are considering whether the tax should apply to Internet phone calls.

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