When I was trying to write up a series of pages on how the federal government gets its hands on our money — that is, all of the miscellaneous ways, other than the big ones like the income tax and payroll tax — I had a hard time finding out just how much money the government brings in from the various excise taxes and what tax rates apply to what items.
- different agencies’ budget tables put the same revenue sources in different categories under different names
- sometimes more than one excise tax applies to the same item, but destined for different trust funds
- some excise taxes apply differently depending not on the good being taxed but on the nature of the company manufacturing, importing, or selling the good
- some excise taxes are partially, wholly, or super-wholly offset by tax credits and deductions, so that what at first looks like a taxed good may in reality be a taxpayer-subsidized good — but, complicating things even more, the taxes may be applied according to one set of rules and the credits and deductions according to another
So, in short, it was often difficult to get a definitive answer of what excise tax actually shows up in the price of any particular good.
But now the staff of the [Congressional] Joint Committee on Taxation has put together a booklet on Present Law and Background Information on Federal Excise Taxes that looks like just the almanac I was looking for.