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Do You Support Taxing Text Messages to Fund Public Services?

by Countable | 12.14.18

What’s the story?

  • California is considering a tax on text messages to raise funds for programs that help fund access to telecommunications services for lower-income California residents.
  • The new surcharge, proposed by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), would be levied as a monthly fee based on a cell phone bill that includes fees for text-messaging. CPUC said it’s necessary to make up for the lost revenue the state used to receive from a tax on voice calls.

Where would the money go?

  • CPUC said the surcharges would be “used to support public programs like 911 service; the CPUC’s LifeLine program, which subsidizes phone rates for low income consumers; and the Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program, which provides special equipment for the deaf and hard-of hearing.”

What are both sides saying?

  • The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) - which represents the wireless industry - told California’s KCRA 3 that they “hope that the CPUC recognizes that taxing text messages is bad for consumers.”
  • “Consumers exchanged 1.77 trillion messages in 2017, making text messages one of the most common and effective means of communication for Americans,” said Jamie Hastings, CTIA’s senior vice president of external affairs.
“Taxing this service would burden those who rely on and use this service each and every day.”
  • But CPUC said the money needs to come from somewhere, and “the charge may even out, because if more surcharge revenue comes from texting services, less would need to come from voice services.”
"If texting surcharge revenues are not collected to support those programs more would need to come from voice services. The surcharge rate is less than 7 percent currently, so for every $10 of text revenues, it would cost about 70 cents."

What do you think?

Do you support taxing text messages to add money to the Public Purpose Program? Take action above, then share your thoughts below. 

—Josh Herman

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / chaluk)

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