Don’t forget about those cell phone tax refunds!

9 Jan

At the December 26 Finance Committee meeting, Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy and City Attorney Lori Barker reported on their efforts to notify cell phone carriers that they no longer need to collect Utility Tax on cell phone bills, given the defeat of Measure J. You might be sick of hearing this but I never tire of telling it – they’ve been collecting the tax illegally for years now, knowingly, and when they noticed that other cities around the state were being sued for perpetrating this fraud, they wrote a measure legalizing it and plopped it on last November’s ballot. As you may recall, WE KICKED THE CRAP OUT OF IT, thankyouverymuch. 

So, what’s the big hold up with telling these companies to stop collecting, you might ask. Any intelligent person might ask that. Any intelligent person might run screaming out of these meetings. I prefer to think of myself as not quite intelligent, maybe just “dog smart.” I may not understand exactly what’s going on, but I got a very suspicious nose. So I go to these damned meetings and ask these persistently annoying questions – if you think I’m  annoying, just try being  me! 

It was asked at the meeting, I don’t remember by who or in exactly what words, but something like this –  well, Jennifer, since you receive these payments from these companies, wouldn’t you know which companies are collecting the tax? 

I’m so glad somebody asks questions besides me – you only get so many pointy questions before certain people get all pissy on you. When that question was asked, all I could do was yell  “You GO girl!” in my head. 

The answer – they are having a hard time segregating (their word) the land line taxes from the cell phone taxes. 

Okay, I thought, that sounds reasonable. You know me, at 8:15 in the am,  “hand me your purse” sounds reasonable to me.  I’m not really awake until about 9:15, three or four cups of coffee down the gullet and a couple of loads of laundry. I come home from these meetings and realize I let all kinds of weird stuff go by without so much as a squawk. 

Have you looked at your cell phone bill? They not only “segregate” your cell phone charges from your land line charges, they segregate all your calls and the amount of time you talked and everything. I could track my husband around the city for the better part of a month using that phone bill.  

The measure was defeated in November and they’re still grappling with, as the News and Review put it, “the daunting task of how to repay local cell phone users the utility tax that is has been collecting under an outdated ordinance.

They can’t even answer questions about it yet. I sent an e-mail to the Finance Department today:

Hi,  I understand the city will be refunding cell phone taxes taken as a result of the defeat of Measure J – could I get the details on that? When and where can we get it, what documentation would we need, etc.    I assume this information will be posted on the front page of the city website eventually, but I’m writing a letter to the editor about it, and I wanted to get the  facts right.  

 Thanks, Juanita Sumner

I received this response:

 

Hello Juanita, thank you for your request for information on refunding cell phone taxes as a result of Measure J.  We will be responding to your request soon.  Thank you!

 

Well, we can make it easier for them – sing out people – who among you has been taxed on your cell phone bill within the last year? Bring those bills forward, e-mail the Finance Department – that’s jhenness@ci.chico.ca.us or ltheisen@ci.chico.ca.us – and tell them you have your bills, and you’re wondering how to get your refund. Simple as that. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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