Tag Archives: cell phone tax refunds

Still paying that phone tax? Here’s the info you need to get your refund, and contact addresses to complain about the taking

22 Apr

It’s only been a couple of weeks since I last rattled chains down at  the Finance Department to see how many  cell phone tax refunds they been giving out – at that time, there had been 147 refunds given out, an average of “$50.81,” according to employee Frank Fields. 

Mr. Fields wanted to point out, and I’ll let him, that six of those refunds were for businesses. Since businesses have bigger phone bills and bigger refunds, he felt that skewed the results somehow. I don’t think so. What about families with many members, kids in colleges around and about, relatives overseas? It doesn’t matter to me how you ran that bill up, a refund is a refund. Plus, only six businesses out of 157 refunds, and he says that skewers the numbers?  The Measure J proponents can rationalize all they want – they were stealing money from people’s phone bills, and people want their money back. And the average isn’t the paltry $25 Scott Gruendl still mentions whenever he gets a microphone in his face, but at least twice that much. 

I don’t want to bother the Finance Department again right away, but this last week or so, this blog and my worldofjuanita blog have been hammered with searches for the phone tax refund information. Here’s the link to the application:

http://www.chico.ca.us/documents/CellPhoneRefundApplication_011713.pdf

As far as I know, there is at least one cell phone company – AT&T – that is still collecting the tax. Check your bills. If you still see that tax collected out of your April bill, I’d let somebody know, maybe our new city manager, Brian Nakamura, at  bnakamura@ci.chico.ca.us

I don’t have contact information for our new Finance Misdirector, but you could reach him through the clerk’s office at dpresson@ci.chico.ca.us

Write to the council too – including Gruendl – through Presson, again, that’s dpresson@ci.chico.ca.us

When your cow gets out of the barn, whether you left the door open or somebody else pried it open, you aren’t going to get your cow back until you go get it for yourself. Ask Joe Mondragon.

40 people have so far applied for their Measure J refunds – don’t forget, time is limited on these refunds

12 Feb

I wrote to Frank Fields over in the city Finance office and asked him how many people have applied for refunds so far – he says,  40 people.

I want to be happy about that, but when I figure, how many people get AT&T, which is the most popular carrier, and when I think about how many people voted against Measure J, I just figure there ought to be more people applying for this refund.

But, it’s a real pain in the ass to get all your bills together – or, as Jim pointed out – PRINT THEM ONTO PAPER, if you get electronic billing – then, either carry them in during business hours (yes, your work hours), OR, stuff all that tree pulp into an envelope and mail them in, yadda, yadda, yadda. 

So, I wrote back to Frank, and I cc’d Brian Nakamura and Mary Goloff, asking for that electronic application that Jim and Rick came up with at our last meeting:

well great, we must be getting to people. I’ll do everything I can to get the information out there and we’ll see if we can get 100, maybe more. Thousands of people voted against Measure J, and I’m guessing thousands in town get AT&T, which we know to have collected the tax. According to my research, AT&T is the most popular carrier.  There’s been a lot of money collected improperly here over the years, so, I hope the city will go further in noticing this refund and returning as much of this money as possible, it’s really the right thing to do. 

I think we need to allow electronic applications. I have friends who get all their bills electronically, that’s the new fad,  – save the planet, right?  I think a lot of people do it. My friend Jim keeps his billing in a folder on his desktop – he could send this in with an e-mail application, paper-free, no trees harmed in the processing of the application. It does seem silly for people who have used electronic billing to have to print out all those bills to get the refund, or their UT rebate, for that matter. 
 
I think this is how we should do all Utility Tax refund/rebate applications in future, so I’m forwarding this message along to Brian Nakamura and council members. 
 

thanks for your work in this matter Frank, Juanita Sumner

I neglected to ask Frank, what was the average refund amount, but I’ll get back to him later and also ask again how many refund applications. I don’t mean to be a nuisance, but judging from the number of searches I get regarding this refund, I think plenty of other people are interested too.  Here’s that application link again:

No, big spending doesn’t guarantee election success – CTA kicked ass with $330 – have a glass of turnip juice, it’s on me!

8 Feb

I’ve been so disappointed in the Enterprise Record lately, I wish I could stop reading it, but for Chico news, that’s all there is.  It’s not really news, but it’s a good indicator of what they want us to think is going on around here.

I was just reading an editorial by David Little, where he just gushes all over Tom Lando. That’s good to know.  Remember what Madame Web said – “Keep your enemies even closer.” 

This story below, which details some of the spending in last November’s local election, ignores Measure J completely. Wouldn’t you like to know what the city spent on Measure J?   I’ll tell you what I spent – $330, and some change. That bought 100 “No on Measure J” signs, and we didn’t even get all of those out. But we won, go figure.

We followed Tami Ritter’s advice – we ran an effective campaign, not a costly one.  Although, I will say, for a family like mine, who live on about half of what Sean Morgan spent on his campaign, $330 is a lot of money. It would have gone most of the way paying for my kid’s class at Butte College. Luckily, the CTA came through, everybody chipped in. We found out – an individual can spend almost $1000 without creating a PAC or having to fill out paperwork. On whatever they like. We chose signs.

Ritter talks about giving money to charity. She should know – I wonder if she’s ever had a salary that did not get squeezed out of the public teat. She acts like she spent nothing – $15,000 is chump change to these people.  We kicked the crap out of Measure J with roughly two percent of what she spent.

 I call that, damn good turnip squeezin!

And here’s that application link again:

Click to access CellPhoneRefundApplication_011713.pdf

Big spending doesn’t guarantee Chico election success

By ASHLEY GEBB-Staff Writer
Posted:   02/05/2013 12:21:45 AM PST
Click photo to enlarge

Chico City Council candidate Dave Donnan removes his election signs along the Skyway on Nov. 7,…

CHICO — Spending big bucks in the Chico City Council race was not a guarantee to secure a seat at the dais last year, with two out of three top spenders failing to get elected, the latest finance filings show.Finance reports released this month for Oct. 31 to Dec. 31 show that Sean Morgan spent and received the most in 2012, at $40,928 and $41,081, respectively. He was the third-highest vote getter for one of four available seats.

But two candidates who raised the second- and third- highest sums of money and also spent large amounts during their campaigns did not get elected.

Andrew Coolidge spent $36,822 and came in fifth place. Bob Evans spent $27,636.92 and received the seventh-highest amount of votes.

First-time councilor Morgan thinks the money and effort spent on his campaign was worth it, but more importantly, he said, he hopes citizens who supported him got what they wanted.

“The deal was you contributed because you believed in my message — a safe place to raise a family, an ideal location for business, and a premier place to live,” he said. “And that is what we are working on.”

The three other candidates to be elected were Ann Schwab, who spent $27,342, followed by Randall Stone at $25,072 and Tami Ritter at $15,919. They received the first-, fourth- and second-highest vote totals, respectively.

In both spending and contributions, Ritter ranked seventh among the 10 candidates. She said she credits getting elected to an effective campaign,  not a costly one.”I made a commitment early, in terms of the amount of money I was going to spend,” Ritter said. “There is an awful lot of money that goes into the campaign process and for me that was a real challenge. Being as tied in as I am to the social services community, I see how much good those dollars could be doing.”

She devoted much of her energy to walking door-to-door, enlisting volunteers and utilizing free social media.

She invested what she did spend on well-planned advertising, using a targeted approach instead of blanketing the community, she said.

In total, last year’s campaign spending by the 10 candidates who accepted contributions totaled $224,680.41. Campaign donations totaled $236,220.87.

Some candidates spent more than some citizens’ annual incomes, Ritter said, but at the other end of the spectrum was candidate Lisa Duarte, who pledged to not accept any money and encouraged people to donate to community causes instead.

“I would love it if that were the norm for a campaign because clearly I can think of multiple organizations around Chico that can benefit from the $15,000 I spent,” Ritter said.

Yet, Duarte received only 3.26 percent of votes, a fraction of those tallied for candidates who amassed thousands of dollars in contributions and invested heavily in their campaigns.

Both Ritter and Morgan said spending money seems to be an inevitable part of campaigning.

“The neat thing about a city council race is you can still meet a lot of people. You can go door-to-door and meet people and say hi,” Morgan said. “But can you knock on 10,000 doors? Probably not. You need money to get that message out there.”

As a newcomer to political races, he did everything he could to reach out to strangers and people he’s known for decades.

“What I didn’t want to happen is for it to get to be the last week and not win because we missed one mailer or one ad,” he said.

Morgan pointed out the campaign finance reports show only what candidates raised and spent, not what was raised or spent in support of them by other individuals or political action committees.

“Somebody else could have had twice that spent on them, and no one looks at it because it is outside,” he said.

Happy Anniversary Baby, I got taxes on my mind!

4 Feb

Yesterday was the anniversary of our first Chico Taxpayer’s Association meeting. I’d say we’ve had a great year, but that’s just me bragging. 

I had a busy day lined up yesterday, but took time out for a quick  meeting.  Consistency is a strength.  We had a couple of members unable to attend, so just discussed “old business” – mainly, the city is giving us the business regarding Measure J.

As a group we wondered aloud, how many people have applied for the cell phone tax refund, and how many have actually been paid?  I know one thing – every day I get searches regarding refunds directed to the blog, and at least a couple of people a day hitting that link to the application.   We are also curious as to the progress of staff to notify those cell phone companies currently collecting the tax that they must stop. Members agreed to make those inquiries of city staff.

Rick and Jim had a great idea – we need to ask the city to make it possible for people to apply electronically. Jim said he gets his phone bills electronically, and keeps them in a folder on his computer. Couldn’t he just attach that folder to an e-mail application form and send it in to the Finance Department? Here’s a guy who gets billed by computer to save the planet, but to get his refund, he has to print out all those five page phone bills (the tax is scattered throughout the bill), stuff it all into an envelope (more dead trees), stick at least two postage stamps on there, and mail it in? Or, take time off his job during the day to deliver it at Jennifer Hennessy’s convenience? 

You know they make it onerous on purpose. They don’t want us to get our refunds. They want to keep our stolen money. The year deadline is ridiculous – like Casey Aplanalp said in his (thanks Casey) letter to the editor, they stole that money, they shouldn’t be allowed to hold us off by the forehead with their little rules.

But, short of hiring a lawyer, there is not a lot we can do. It would be good if other people made these inquiries to staff and council – especially that idea about electronic applications. That ought to be the standard for all Utility Tax rebates too.   I will have to write a note when I get back to my desk later today. I hope more of you will write also. Go after that cow people. 

Thanks all, and see you next meeting, March 3!

City announces they’ve instructed cell phone companies to stop taking tax – check your bills to make sure!

29 Jan

I see the Measure J refunds story is in the “most read” section of the Enterprise Record  today, but I posted it here just in case you missed it – read below.

I see a couple of problems in the story – for one thing, Ashley Gebb is a sloppy reporter. There she says, “Nearly 54 percent of residents voted in November to not update the city’s phone user tax”.  No no Dear, it was 54 % of the city’s VOTERS, not residents, duh. Does she understand how voting works?  Sorry to be a nit-picker, but this is the same gal that lectured me on the proper mis-use of the word “average“.  I notice she dropped that word from the part about billing amounts. In her pre-election story she said the “average”  bill in Chico was $50. When I questioned her about that, she came back like, “Oh silly, I didn’t mean mathematical average, I just meant, you know, AVERAGE!”

Another bit that bothers me is where Hennessy says folks will have to provide not only proof they were billed for the tax, but proof they PAID the tax? Of course, that should come up on the next bill, but what about your last bill? You need to wait until you get the following bill, that says you paid your previous bill? For Chrissake Jennifer, LET IT GO!  This whole thing reminds me of “Repo Man” – the old movie with Emilio Estevez. 

But, the good news is, ” the city has notified wireless phone companies to no longer collect the tax.”

Now, there’s some news! But I’d like to hear from those of you, who, like Jim in Chico, have seen the tax on their billing, who can check to make sure it’s gone. Let me know. 

Here’s Gebbs’ story:

Measure J-related phone tax refunds now available in Chico

By ASHLEY GEBB-Staff Writer
Posted:   01/29/2013 12:00:00 AM PST
 

CHICO — Chico residents can now apply for refunds for phone taxes paid to the city during the previous 12 months. 

Due to the failure of Measure J, the city is offering residents refunds for any utility user taxes paid for cellphones or Voice over Internet Protocol services within a year of application. 

Nearly 54 percent of residents voted in November to not update the city’s phone user tax to include modern technology such as cellphones, and the city has notified wireless phone companies to no longer collect the tax.

“If an individual showed documentation they were billed a tax and it was paid, we will issue them a refund,” said Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy on Wednesday.

The 5 percent phone tax would equate to about $2.50 of a monthly $50 bill or $5 of a monthly $100 bill.

Since November, any phone tax revenue that has come in has been placed in an account earmarked for refunds. If any remains after one year, the revenue may be placed in the general fund.

As for how many people may apply, “I have no idea,” Hennessy said. The potential fiscal impact is about $900,000 if all phone tax collected were to be reimbursed.

The City Council has not yet addressed what it will do to compensate for the loss in revenue, which supported the general fund.

Residents will need to provide documentation, including their cellphone bill and proof the bill was paid. Refunds will be issued beginning Feb. 21 and be mailed to the name and address on the bill.

Residents may not claim refunds for amounts previously refunded through the city’s utility tax refund program for income-qualified individuals. Verizon Wireless and MetroPCS customers are also not eligible because the providers did not collect the tax in the last 12 months.The refund application is the only way for the city to issue reimbursements, Hennessy said. The tax payments it received from phone companies are a lump sum, with no indication of who paid, for what and how much.Applications are available online and at City Hall’s Finance Department counter.

“We will be processing them as they come in and issuing refund checks,” City Attorney Lori Barker told the City Council this month. “Checks will be issued on the city’s regular cycle of processing and accounts payable.”

The City Council unanimously made final approval of the refund ordinance at its Jan. 15 meeting.

 

Connect with Ashley Gebb at 896-7768, agebb@chicoer.com, or on Twitter @AshleyGebb.