Opponents claim tax moratorium bill favors wireless carriers

The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would put a five-year moratorium on new state and local taxes targeting wireless services but not other goods or services, a long-sought-for goal of the CTIA.

The bill would only apply to new taxes and does not affect to those already in place. The CTIA has long fought for the bill, arguing that wireless services are unfairly taxed compared with other services. However, state and local governments have said that the bill would deprive them of revenue at a time when budgets are being cut because of the weak economy.

The House bill, the Wireless Tax Fairness Act of 2011, was introduced by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) earlier this spring, and will now go to the full House for a vote. Lawmakers also approved an amendment allowing a state or city to impose a new wireless tax if it is approved by the affected voters. A companion bill in the Senate, introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Olympia Snow (R-Maine), is still at the committee level. Similar legislation was introduced in 2008 and 2009, but the bills died in Congress.

After the vote, the CTIA praised the committee and urged the full House to vote on the bill.

Still, at a hearing on the bill, opponents decried it as a giveaway to the wireless industry. "This bill is not about expanding broadband technology or providing tax parity for an overtaxed industry," said Bernita Sims, according to BillingWorld. Sims is a council member with the City of High Point, N.C., and member of the Finance, Administration and Intergovernmental Relations Committee of the National League of Cities. "Rather, this bill is about special treatment and favoritism for wireless phone companies that continue to experience explosive growth and profits."

For more:
- see this National Journal article
- see this BillingWorld article

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