I.R.S. Gives Up Fight on Illegally Collected Phone Tax

The flat-rate long distance excise tax, which has been declared unlawful in every jurisdiction whose courts have taken it up, but which has been stubbornly enforced by an IRS sticking its fingers in its ears and singing “tra-la-la” is finally dead, and it’s taking the tax on other varieties of long-distance phone service with it.

The IRS formally gave up the fight (PDF).

Not only will they stop collecting the tax, but they plan to refund the tax collected over the last three years — $15 billion — with interest, even. They’re still working on the details, but there will be a line on your 1040 next year on which you can apply for a refund. If you didn’t save all of your phone bills for the last three years, they’ll even have a formula you can use to estimate how much they owe you absent the documentation.

This does not apply to the excise tax on local phone service. But when he announced this change of policy, Treasury Secretary John Snow took the opportunity to “call on Congress to terminate the remainder of this antique tax by repealing the excise tax on local service as well.”

, I discussed The Question of German Guilt by Karl Jaspers. As my post had already grown long, I left out a section in which he shared some ominous but interesting premonitions about America:

The basic fact that all of us are human justifies this anxiety of ours about human existence as a whole.…

In this anxiety we ask ourselves: could the other nations’ better luck be due in part to more favorable political destinies? Could they be making the same mistakes that we made, only so far without the fatal consequences which led to our undoing?

They would reject any warnings from us wicked wretches. They would fail to understand, perhaps, and might even find it presumptuous if Germans should worry over the course of history — which is their business, not that of the Germans. And yet, we are oppressed by one nightmarish idea: if a dictatorship in Hitler’s style should ever rise in America, all hope would be lost for ages. We in Germany could be freed from the outside. Once a dictatorship has been established, no liberation from within is possible. Should the Anglo-Saxon world be dictatorially conquered from within, as we were, there would no longer be an outside, nor a liberation. The freedom fought for and won by Western man over hundreds, thousands of years would be a thing of the past. The primitivity of despotism would reign again, but with all means of technology. True, man cannot be forever enslaved; but this comfort would then be a very distant one, on a plane with Plato’s dictum that in the course of infinite time everything that is possible will here or there occur or recur as a reality. We see the feelings of moral superiority and we are frightened: he who feels absolutely safe from danger is already on the way to fall victim to it. The German fate could provide all others with experience. If only they would understand this experience! We are no inferior race. Everywhere people have similar qualities. Everywhere there are violent, criminal, vitally capable minorities apt to seize the reins if occasion offers, and to proceed with brutality.