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Text, Californians, text: State commission won’t pursue tax on text messaging

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Diana Cossaboom, U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs functional area manager, texts with a friend at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (Tech. Sgt. Amanda Dick/U.S. Air Force)

Californians worried that their text messages might soon be taxed can rejoice. The proposal has been pulled.

In a statement released via Twitter over the weekend, California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced it would no longer be pursuing the measure that would’ve added a surcharge to phone bills.

“On Dec. 12, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a declaratory ruling finding that “text messaging” is an information service, not a telecommunications service, under the Federal Telecommunications Act,” the CPUC wrote in its statement.

The CPUC noted that if texting were a telecommunications service it would be subject to state tax under California law. “In light of the FCC’s action, assigned Commissioner Carla J. Peterman has withdrawn from the CPUC’s Jan. 10, 2019 Voting Meeting” the proposal that would’ve added the tax.

The tax was initially proposed as a way to add funds to help the state fund access to telecommunications services for lower-income California residents, making up for lost revenue the state used to receive from a tax on voice calls.

Under the proposal an undisclosed texting “surcharge” would’ve been added to Californians wireless bills, taxing them for using traditional SMS and MMS texting. WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger and other messaging apps that transmit over the internet (known as OTT, or over-the-top services) would not have been subject to the charge.

The CPUC proposal was also looking to retroactively collect taxes from the past five years though how it would do so was equally unclear.

The idea of the proposal sent shockwaves around the internet, with users flocking to platforms like Twitter. For now, however, people can rest easy.


© 2018 USA Today

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