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Prepaid cell plan customers will see new E911 charges starting now at retail stores

OK, one of those little-seen, little-known wireless phone bill taxes has been modified to include sales of prepaid phones and prepaid phone cards.

Starting this month, the state of Washington has approved adding the tax to prepaid phones and prepaid products, including phone cards.

Here's an example. Bob goes to WalMart and buys a $30 prepaid wireless phone card. The store will collect $1 for the E911 tax   Seventy cents go to the county, 25 cents goes to the state, and then the store will collect an additional nickel  and send it to the state Department of Revenue.

The change in the law is that previously the E011 emergency services tax was collected by cellphone companies and carriers. Now retailers are asked to collect the tax on prepaid items.

All wireless customers are already paying that small tax on their monthly wireless bill.

The money supports the technology that enables local 911 emergency services to pinpoint the geographic location of cellphone users who call for help. A summary of the tax can be found at the Washington Dept. of Revenue FAQ.

The new law allows retailers to charge 5 cents to cover their cost of collecting the tax until July 1, 2018. The 95-cent E911 tax and 5-cent seller compensation will be collected on each prepaid wireless item purchased. The E911 tax is in addition to state and local retail sales taxes.

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

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Alison Boggs (@alisonboggs) Online Producer Alison Boggs posts and manages content on and its social networking accounts.

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Scott Maben Scott Maben is a Deputy City Editor who covers North Idaho news and higher education.

Addy Hatch is the city editor, and formerly was business editor.

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