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Understanding Mobile Phone Taxes and Regulatory Fees

Taxes and regulatory fees on your mobile phone plan have the mark of government all over them. That is to say they’re a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

Cell phone regulatory fees vary from state to state, from county to county and in some cases, city to city. These taxes and regulatory fees are nigh on impossible to predict. It’s frustrating for you and it’s frustrating for us too.

First, let’s be as clear as possible on what taxes and regulatory fees you’ll pay with Ting. To quote the sign in a little shawarma shop near Ting HQ; we don’t charge tax, we collect it. Ting only collects what we are legally required to collect… and what we’re required to collect varies widely depending on a number of factors. Things like state, county and city factor in. So does overall usage. 911 access charges vary widely. Some states charge Telecommunication Relay Service (TRS) fees, some charge Public Utility Commission (PUC) fees. Some charge neither. Some both.

Contrary to the industry norm, Ting does not charge any recovery or administrative fees. We figure these taxes and fees are already high and complicated enough.

Current data on cell phone service taxes and fees is inexplicably hard to come by. The latest data is in KSE Partners LLP’s A Growing Burden: Taxes and Fees on Wireless Service, compiled by Scott Mackey.

The national weighted average tax burden is about 16.25 per cent. For ease of calculation, tack that much onto your usage estimates. To get a more accurate idea of what you’ll pay, take a look at the exhaustive tables that Mackey has compiled, detailing all the taxes and fees charged by each state, broken down by county where appropriate, in the Taxes and Fees on Wireless Service study.

The top-five most heavily taxed states for mobile service are:
(combined federal and state)

  • Nebraska at 23.69%
  • Washington at 23.00%
  • New York at 22.83%
  • Florida at 21.62%
  • Illinois at 20.90%

The five least heavily taxed states are:
(combined federal and state)

  • West Virginia at 11.28%
  • Montana at 11.08%
  • Idaho at 7.25%
  • Nevada at 7.13%
  • Oregon at 6.86%

To see where your state / municipality falls in the grand scheme of taxes and regulatory fees, see the list on Table 2 in A Growing Burden: Taxes and Fees on Wireless Service.

For a more detailed breakdown of each of the fees, levies, taxes, charges and other synonyms too numerous to mention, wade through table four of said document.

We’re sorry the answer isn’t simpler or more definitive, but we will keep trying (here and on everything else) to give you as much visibility as we can so your payments are as clear and predictable as possible.

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