How to Resist the Federal Excise Tax on Air Travel?

Did you know there’s a United States federal excise tax on air travel? Yes indeed.

There is a 7.5% federal excise tax on the price of an airline ticket. In addition, for every domestic flight, or leg of a flight, that begins and ends in the United States there is an excise tax ($3.70); for flights that begin or end in Alaska or Hawaii the charge is higher ($8.10); for international flights that begin or end in the United States, the charge is higher still ($16.10). (There are also excise taxes on airplane fuel.)

As with the federal excise tax on telephone service, the customer is responsible for paying the tax and the company that offers the service is merely supposed to collect it and pass it on to the government. And as with the telephone tax, if the customer refuses to pay the tax, the company is supposed to report the customer to the government.

War tax resisters have used this set-up to successfully refuse their phone taxes. They pay their bills, except for the federal excise tax, and then notify the phone company of the law that says the company is supposed to report this refusal to the feds. This way the company doesn’t just think the customer has underpaid their bill, and doesn’t have grounds to cut off phone service.

I’m unaware of anyone who has successfully tried this same approach with air travel. Typically the excise taxes are tacked on to the price of the ticket. Often the purchase is done on-line or through some ticketing agency that is unlikely to believe it has the flexibility to accept any payment less than the number on the screen. I’d imagine it would take a lot of work to try to resist this tax in this fashion.

I knew something was fishy. Turns out that when I did my month-accounting I double-counted some of the spending items. I’ve gone back and corrected the numbers. It turns out I was under my under-the-tax-line spending limit after all, though I’m still cutting it closer than I’d like and I’m still planning on doing some cost-cutting.