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Thu., Feb. 17, 2011, 10:11 a.m.

Wireless charges for government fees and taxes climb; Washington second-highest

Yes, you're right. Those monthly cell phone bills keep getting pricier. One reason is the gradual upward-sloping rates of federal, state and local taxes added to the monthly charges, a recent report says.

That survey of all 50 states also found Washington is the second highest in overall local taxes and fees on cell plans. Nebraska retained its designation as the state with the highest rate on wireless consumers, at
23.69 percent. Washington retained its No. 2 status with a 23 percent rate.

Which means, if you have a typical $100 bill for your wireless service, the average Washington customer is paying another $23 in fees, taxes and surcharges.

This is drawn from the report "A Growing Burden: Taxes and Fees on Wireless Service," just released this past week.

It notes that since 2009, the trend has been a steady increase of taxes and fees on wireless customers, nationwide.

It said:

 "Users now face a combined federal, state, and local tax and fee burden of 16.3 percent, a rate two times higher than the average retail sales tax rate and the highest wireless rate since 2005. Consumers now pay wireless taxes, fees and government charges that exceed the retail sales tax rate.


"Although federal, state, and local taxes and fees contribute to the high burden on wireless consumers, the recent increase in rates is mostly attributable to the rapid growth in the rate of the federal Universal Service Fund (USF) surcharge. Increases in the federal USF have added 0.9 percentage points to the rate since 2007, while state and local increases added about 0.2 percent, for a net increase in rates of 1.1 percentage points—from 15.2 percent to 16.3 percent.


Across the entire country, the average cell customer pays about $7.84 per month in taxes, fees and government surcharges.

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The Spokesman-Review business team follows economic development in Spokane and the Inland Northwest.