One of our good friends around here at Common Sense Conspiracy was recently examining his cell phone bill. Almost everyone has a cell phone these days (if not more than one), but how often do you really take an extra moment to examine your bill and see what all your friends at Verizon Wireless or AT&T are stacking up on your bill? Well, our friend started looking at some of what most people would call “bullshit charges” that are tacked on the end of the bill, and he was startled to find out that one is called a federal excise tax. No further explanation. No further description. They take if from you every month in the name of the federal government. But what is a federal excise tax and why is it levied on the consumer on a monthly basis?
Common Sense Conspiracy could smell blood on the water for another famous reveal of the government being up to no good, so we pounced on the opportunity to investigate further. So, without further ado, just what the hell is a federal excise tax and why do you have to pay it?
Well, the simple explanation is that when telephones were invented (the landline kind, not cell phones, to give you an idea of how far this goes back), the government realized that it was missing the boat on some fun time taxation. After all, the government could easily levy taxes against goods purchased, services paid for, but this new frontier of communication was all taking place verbally. They were missing out on their piece of the pie, so, not wanting to be the only one empty-handed at any party, the government put their heads together, put aside their petty differences, and found a way to tax the very words you speak out of your mouth. When cell phones came along, naturally, the federal excise tax jumped right from landlines to the air with Americans everywhere. No missing the boat this time. They had already figured out how to tax communication with words.
The Internal Revenue Service is way too busy pushing a political agenda by auditing organizations it has a problem with, so it didn’t want to take on the extra burden of collecting this money. So, they decided to let the service providers do the work for them. That’s what’s so sweet about the government; they can mandate that you have to do their work for them, all the while chuckling to the bank with their payment.
So, to address the original question, is the federal excise tax charging you for the ability to listen in on your calls? Yes and no. Technically, it’s a tax on you using your breath and vocal chords to talk to another person (or a robot these days). However, it does go to the government, who then uses the money collected from the myriad of taxes imposed on us to fund the organizations that listen to you call your Granny or ask your wife if there’s enough milk or if you need to stop at the store.
Finally, we want to point out one more thing. Every few years, the government attempts to do this with e-mail and the Internet in general. The Internet and electronic messaging is another one of those situations where the government found itself standing outside an awesome party. They want to find a way to tax that as well, but so far, the public outrage has won out in the end. Always stay updated on what they are trying to sneak through Congress, especially at times when the public’s attention is especially diverted (like, I don’t know, terrorist attacks?). They aren’t happy about the fact that they haven’t found a way to tax information, but make no mistake! They are not through trying, and it is our vigilance that will determine if this new frontier of communication media remains free of government oversight and taxation.