Talk:Excise tax in the United States

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Disambiguation needed[edit]

"Excise" is a very general term: Aside from having different legal implications, the situation concerning excise varies greatly from country to country. This article only displays the situation in the United States of America. I propose moving the U.S. content to Excise in the United States and using this article to flesh out the meaning of excise in general. The different situation in countries like the US, the UK or Germany could be described shortly, with a link referring to the respective article. Text from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and the former agency Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, for instance, could be incorporated for the UK section. Something Wicked 11:27, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

  • I agree. A disambiguation page like that which exists for property taxes would be appropriate here. I don't have the time currently to devote to it but if this issue is still around in a few months I'll look into it. Nathanpatterson 12:01, 22 May 2006 (UTC)
  • I also strongly agree, unfortunately I do not have the knowledge to work the article myself and accessed the definition in an attempt to find out exactly what the word means. I was dissapointed to find only a definition related specifically to the USA. This was not helpful to me sitting in Mozambique trying to write intelligently to lawyers in South Africa. (Dave5010 10:59, 8 July 2006 (UTC))
  • I agree as well... 1 year later... I'll move it. :-) Morphh (talk) 1:30, 25 May 2007 (UTC)

Who is Mr. Edward F. McClennen?[edit]

If he isn't notable, we should shorten his statement to encyclopedic density. — Sebastian (talk) 05:31, August 2, 2005 (UTC)

The Article apperas to be morally opposed to Excise Taxes rather than taking an NPOV. 12/09/05.

This article needs to be reworked[edit]

This article needs to be cleaned up. The term "excise" (like many legal terms) has more than one technical legal meaning. In the United States, it has at least one constitutional law meaning and at least one statutory law meaning. The article seems to be confusing the meanings and using terms in an imprecise way that can cause further confusion.

One way to understand excises in the CONSTITUTIONAL sense is to think of taxes as consisting of two kinds: "state of being" taxes and "event" taxes (these are not technical legal terms, just pedagogical terms).

An example of a "state of being" tax is an ad valorem property tax. It's imposed on the property or the person who owns that property at a certain moment on, say, January 1 of each year based on the state of title at that given moment. It is the "state of title" that is being taxed. If you owned the property at that moment, the tax is imposed on you. And next year, on January 1st, the tax is imposed again in the same way on the same property and person, EVEN THOUGH THERE'S BEEN NO "CHANGE" (NO INTERVENING "EVENT"). The amount of the tax may change from year to year, based on the change in the value of the property or a change in the tax rate or both, but those are separate issues. What is being taxed is the STATE OF TITLE, and state of title is not an "event" but is instead a "state of being."

By contrast, an event tax is a tax on, well, an event. A realization of income (such as a receipt of wages) is an event. A sale is an event. A transfer of title by gift is an event. A transfer of title because of death is an event. Income taxes, sales taxes, transfer taxes -- they are are all event taxes. When you receive money as income, it is not the ownership or state of title of the money itself that is taxed, but rather the fact that an income event has occurred. Sure, you pay the tax with money, but that's a separate issue. If you take the money and put it under your bed for ten years, the INCOME tax is not re-imposed on that money every year you have it under your bed. Only one thing is taxed by the income tax -- the original "income event."

For purposes of the U.S. constitution, an excise is essentially any indirect tax, or "event" tax (with one class of exceptions -- namely income taxes on income from property, which arguably are not treated as excises). An excise means any tax 'other than (1) a tax on property by reason of its ownership; (2) a capitation, or head tax; (3) an income tax on income from property. In the constitutional sense, an excise includes gift taxes, estate taxes, payroll taxes, sales taxes, miscellaneous excise taxes, and income taxes on any income other than income from property, etc., etc. -- in short, any tax that is not a direct tax.

For U.S. statutory purposes, the term "excise" generally includes (but may not be limited to) a tax that is "called" an "excise" in the language of the statute itself.

The article needs to be reworked to make clearer exactly what kind of tax is being talked about in each example.

For example, the article states: "An excise is an indirect tax or duty levied on items within a country. It is an ad valorem tax on specific goods or a fixed rate tax on specific goods [ . . . ]". Those statements in the form presented are probably incorrect. The excise tax may be imposed on the SALE of items or specific goods (an event). The excise tax may be imposed on the IMPORTATION of items or specific goods (an event).

Similarly, the reference to taxes "on fuel, alcohol and tobacco" probably really should be re-worded to say a tax on a SALE of fuel, alcohol and tobacco (or whatever event is being taxed). When you say a tax ON FUEL, ALCOHOL AND TOBACCO, that sounds like a property tax based on the state of title -- and that would not be an "excise" tax in the constitutional sense.

Another line in the article does refer to a "sale," however. So the article just needs to be cleaned up. If you're talking about a tax on an event, say what the event is. By contrast, if you're talking about a "state of being" tax such as a property tax on real estate, it's more correct to say "a tax on" the property. Famspear 18:58, 4 January 2006 (UTC)

Hawaii GET = VAT?[edit]

The description for the Hawaii GET sounds like the description of a VAT. Can someone modify the article to clarify this? --Scott McNay 03:16, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

-A VAT compensates for pre-retail transfers. The GET sounds more like a 'cascading sales tax' which has no adjustment for value added-- (talk) 23:19, 21 November 2011 (UTC)

Huh?? - Capsule summary needed[edit]

A lay reader (like me) would have to read several pages of dreck to answer the basic question - "What's an excise tax?" Two pithy sentences please. H Bruthzoo 18:32, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

Dear readers: I added a summary near the top. I hope it helps. This is how the term is used in U.S. law.
Tax lawyers, CPAs, etc., in the United States generally don't spend a lot of time pondering the term "excise," because there is relatively little actual need to figure out whether a given tax is an excise or not, either from a constitutional law standpoint or a statutory law standpoint. Yours, Famspear 19:49, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

Legitimate Excise taxes[edit]

Under the United States Constitution, according to the U.S. Supreme Court in Flint v. Stone Tracy Co., 220 US 112, (1911), which is now the controlling constitutional application of the law, and has been cited over 600 times by that Court in the last century as the controlling force of law regarding what constitutes a legitimate "excise" tax, and what does not; held that:

Excises are taxes laid upon:

the manufacture, sale or consumption of commodities within the country, upon licenses to pursue certain occupations, and upon corporate privileges; .. the requirement to pay such taxes involves the exercise of the privilege and if business is not done in the manner described [AS A CORPORATION] no tax is is the privilege [OF INCORPORATION] which is the subject of the tax and not the mere buying, selling or handling of goods [OR EARNING OF INCOME]."

Therefore, most of this article is wrong as few of the taxes listed here as excises actually are within the actual definition of the excise taxing authority provided by the court, but are merely erroneously assumed into existence without statutory basis or supported case law. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

IP, that's a form of synthesis as you're taking information from one place and applying to other things. Our articles should reflect what reliable sources say about the topic, so if the source calls something an exise tax, the article should reflect that. We can't make legal judgements in the articles, but we can find sources that make that statement. For example, if something is called an excise tax in the article, you can find a source that uses the Flint v. Stone Tracy case to say it's not an excise tax.
There's also a comment in the lede talking about taxes that are called an exise tax in the law, even if they don't fall under the Flint v Stone Tracy definition. These are generally called excise taxes, even if incorrectly, in the US. Ravensfire (talk) 19:38, 15 January 2010 (UTC)
Ravensfire is correct.
And no, Flint v. Stone Tracy Co. is not THE "controlling constitutional application of the law" --not in the specific sense in which the user at IP199.195.58.20 is stating or implying. Essentially, the argument that the term "excise" in the constitutional law sense is somehow limited to the kinds of taxes, etc., described in the Flint case is legally frivolous tax protester rhetoric. Essentially, that frivolous argument is a variation on the frivolous argument that the U.S. federal income tax on the income of individuals is somehow constitutionally invalid.
Neither the United States Supreme Court -- in Flint or any other case -- nor any other federal court, has ever ruled that "excise" in the constitutional sense is limited to the kinds of taxes described in the Flint quotation. And neither the United States Supreme Court nor any other federal court has ever ruled that the U.S. federal income tax is unconstitutional as applied to the income of ordinary individuals.
The article is correct. Famspear (talk) 22:27, 15 January 2010 (UTC)

Negative excise tax?[edit]

The summary table for 2010 lists a negative excise tax for transportation fuels. Can someone explain how this can be? Another table lists positive per gallon taxes on fuels. Is it some form of subsidy, and if so, why is it listed as a tax? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:13, 9 September 2011 (UTC)

Removal of sourced material[edit]

The graph that was removed was re-added to the article. The material has a clear reference to a reliable source. Also, with images to see the full description and the full references you need to click on the image to get the full description page. For clarity, these references have now been placed in the description captions. Any further suggestions for improvement are appreciated. Guest2625 (talk) 23:56, 24 May 2012 (UTC)

Income Tax Unconstitutional[edit]

Removed that bit about income taxes being declared unconstitutional after the civil war. They were rendered too difficult to impose by the court ruling, not actually unconstitutional. The sentence without the disclaimer is also correct in saying the US introduced income taxes at that time. No further comment is necessary in that sentence, there are articles about the income tax where such controversy is better placed. Outcast95 (talk) 08:22, 12 January 2015 (UTC)

Technically, certain kinds of income taxes (taxes on dividends, interest and rent income) were indeed ruled unconstitutional, in the Pollock case in 1895. The Pollock decision was overruled by the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment. However, I agree with editor Outcast95's edit; there's no compelling need to muddy the waters on that tangential subject in this article. This is already covered at length in other Wikipedia articles. Famspear (talk) 02:03, 13 January 2015 (UTC)

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