Nearly everyone has one. Some people have more than one. Cell phones now outnumber people in the United States. Yet, the taxes on cell phones are excessively high, say critics, including the NAACP. And New York is in the top three states with the highest tax on cell phones. According to the Tax Federation, a nonpartisan educational organization, the average U.S. wireless customer pays taxes and fees of 16.26%. In New York, it is 22.83%, as of 2011.
While the House of Representatives recently passed the Wireless Tax Fairness Act of 2011 – which, if approved by the Senate, will impose a five-year moratorium on new state and local taxes on wireless services, providers, or property – the NAACP wants a permanent reduction. In fact, the NAACP has issued a resolution opposing “any corporate or government policies that increase costs, impede deployment, discourage adoption and usage, limit consumer access, reduce local commentary, or state oversight, or that of the public utilities commissions, public hearings, or other forums for citizen input and reduce affordability of broadband technologies.”
According to Kim Keenan, general counsel for the NAACP, “Steep taxes on cell phone use effectively disproportionately penalizes socio-economically disadvantaged households. This is especially true for those who use their cell phones for Internet access. This only widens the digital divide. A cell phone is no longer a luxury but a necessity for survival in the modern world. It should be treated more like a utility rather like alcohol or tobacco.”