Could Texts Be Subject to a Tax?

That plan has been proposed in California.

Honolulu Bans Distracted Walking text tax
A tax on texting could be coming to California. (Getty Images)

California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has filed a text tax proposal, USA Today reports.

CPUC is a group that regulates public utilities in the state as well as being responsible for regulating water, energy, and transportation over rail systems as well as passenger vehicles.

It’s unclear, however, who would be getting taxed and just how much tax would be applied. “I don’t know how clear the CPUC has been with answering these questions,” Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, a business advocacy organization in California, told USA Today.  “Does the sender pay? Does the receiver pay? What if you move out of state but you keep the California number? What if you drive down to Reno, Nevada and get a phone? Can you avoid the charge then? These are all things that would be really hard to resolve.”

The CPUC is proposing to tax new SMS and MMS messages as well as messages sent up to five years ago. Messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook messenger would be unaffected, as well as apps like SnapChat and Kik. The tax could wind up on your bill as a “surcharge.” The amount of said surcharge is currently unknown.

“We hope that the CPUC recognizes that taxing text messages is bad for consumers,” Jamie Hastings, senior vice president of external and state affairs for CTIA, explained in a statement. “Consumers exchanged 1.77 trillion messages in 2017, making text messages one of the most common and effective means of communication for Americans. Taxing this service would burden those who rely on and use this service each and every day.”

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