Tag Archives: Utility Tax

Utility Tax Refund forms now available on city website

17 Apr

Wow, I am surprised this year to find the finance department has already posted the Utility Tax Refund application. In years past, I’ve had to remind them, but this year they got it up at least two weeks early. 

http://www.chico.ca.us/documents/UUTRefundApplication2014.pdf

I hope you have all saved your bills – PG&E, and water for most people I assume, and if you still have a “land line” phone, they’ll get you there too. So, I save all my bills, and I march Downtown one day in June to collect. I usually get at least $50, even as low as we keep our bills here.

We’ve finally turned off our heater, so we can enjoy a few months of low bills before it gets hot enough to tip the air conditioner thermostat. But I’ve already heard air conditioners around our neighborhood. Save those bills!

 

$9,580 in cell phone rebates, and still counting

19 Jul

from Frank Fields 7/17/13

UUT refunds:

UUT cell phone refunds: $9,580

UUT annual refund program: $5,596 (May/June 2013)

Well, I am not excited about the UUT refund total, it doesn’t look like more than the usual number of people. At about $50 average refund, it only looks like the usual 100 people that always come in, myself included. I got almost $40, which puts the average Frank Fields gave me in perspective.

This tells me the process is too onerous for most people to take it seriously. You have to either mail that stack of crap in,  all your bills, all the pages, along with your tax returns, or, you have to find time during the work day to amble on down to the city building and make a personal appearance at the Finance Department window. 

To think, they’re ripping off the poorest people in town.  Maybe Brian Nakamura should grow a mustache, so he can twist it as he rips off the poor and closes them out of the playground. 

I’ve asked Nakamura, cc’ing the full council, to make the process electronic – something you could do over the computers at the library on a Saturday morning – but he just won’t answer.  I’ll get back to that soon. 

But, I do find the cell phone refund total impressive – $9,580 bucks. I didn’t get the number of applicants from Fields, but I’m guessing, that’s more than 100 applicants. Fields told me earlier this year, some of the applicants are businesses, with bigger refunds that kind of  mess up the average, but I’m still guessing, more than 100 people have filed for that refund, and that’s good. I get searches for the information in the blog daily, so I know people are still interested in getting their refunds, whether they will go through the onerous process or not. I wonder, how many people even keep their bills. 

I notice this morning, the city keeps announcing they’ve found this solution and that solution to the park closures, but the main park road and Caper Acres are still closed Monday through Thursday. I hope people get as mad about the park closures as they did about the cell phone tax. I’ll be in the park this weekend, for the Bidwell Park Birthday Scam, handing out fliers with dollar amounts and contact information – I hope we can turn this park closure on Nakamura, show him he messed with the wrong kind of bees.

I’ve reserved the library room for Sunday, August 4, 9am, for our First Sunday Chico Taxpayers meeting. I’ll have an update regarding the park closures, and more ideas for bringing the employees to the table. 

Measure J was just the test run for the sales tax increase

12 Mar

Brian Nakamura forwarded along Jennifer Hennessy’s answers to Stephanie Taber’s questions from last week’s city council meeting.

Stephanie’s questions, below in black, with Hennessy’s responses in blue, and my smart ass observations in green:

1) What/who is the source of information that is now being used to verify the $500 loss (or whatever the current figure is) in revenue due to the defeat of Measure J?  At the offset of the proposal there was no definitive way of separating how much revenue was received based solely of cell phone calls and texting and how much on land line costs.  At least that was my understanding.

Answer:  City staff will be able to determine Measure J’s impact over time, as Telecommunication companies stop collecting the tax on cell phones and voice over internet protocol (VOIP) services.  Future UUT revenue will be compared to revenue collected prior to the notification to the companies to cease collection of this tax. 

Wait, this doesn’t sound right. For one thing, in December, Hennessy reported a loss of $500,000 to the General Fund, and blamed it directly, in so many words, by name, on “the loss of Measure J.” There was no doubt in her mind, our budget had been hit broadside to the tune of $500,000 by the petty taxpayers who defeated that ill-begot scheme. Now she tells us, she won’t know how much, til “over time”?   She’s our budget director, in charge of our financial “IN” and “OUT” boxes, and she doesn’t know where our money comes from? She gets checks all year from the phone companies, but she doesn’t keep track of how much? That answer sounds fishy to me on a number of levels. 

2) Are telephone tax collections a separate revenue line item that can be compared month-to-month and year to date?

Answer:  Yes, revenue collected for Utility Users Tax on telecommunication services is reflected in the City’s General Fund, under account 40492. 

And here she says the opposite – that the revenue collected is kept track of in the budget?  Month to month? I looked in the budget, available under “Finance Dept” on the city website.

Click to access 2012-13CityAnnualFINALBudget_000.pdf

Yes, under the General Fund summary, page FS-1, Fund 001, Utility Tax is separated out – gas, electric, telecom, and water – but only year to year. I wonder if she even read Stephanie’s question all the way through. The fund is there, but we don’t see how much is added and subtracted, just the balance. Like she says for Q #1, we would have to have all the budgets, and compare that number from year to year, and we’d have to know how much money had been taken from that fund in order to figure out how much had come in over any particular year. She knows that stuff, or she should – why she can’t give us a straight answer is beyond me, and it just makes me suspicious of everything they say Downtown.

What they continue to say Downtown, is that Measure J is to blame for all our fiscal difficulties. This even as they sign that new cop contract – raises, especially for lieutenants, fully-paid “employee share,” the whole nine yards. And did you see those new cruisers they bought, just to be “traditional”? They’ve also raised department head salaries about $25 – 30,000 each.  Oh, but $900,000, or uh, is it $600,000 – oh, just $500,000? Really? Well that’s still a TRAGEDY! QUE LASTIMA! You rotten, petty taxpayers! You’re so stingy! 

This is their foot in the door for that sales tax increase, you just watch. 

And don’t forget, Frank Fields said he’d have the UT rebate application on the website “in the next couple of  weeks,” so I’ll keep you posted there.

Hurry up and get those refund applications turned in – they will only give back your stolen money a year previous to your application

5 Feb

I been so busy lately, I am spun. I keep walking into rooms and finding some half-done job – – half-made bed, half-done dishes, half-folded laundry, half-eaten lunch, etc.  Right now I’m about half-way through boiling a half dozen eggs.

It is hard to keep up with city business, which of course, is everybody’s business. They move those nutshells fast down there, because they don’t want us to get ahold of that pea!

So, at this past Chico Taxpayer’s Association meeting, I asked if we could make this blog more of a “newsletter,” an information site, somewhere to go when you’re looking for something. Lately I have had a lot of searches and hits on the information and links regarding the cell phone tax refund. I’ve been posting the link, but when I tried to talk about the rules for the refund this morning, I realized, I didn’t know!  I frankly had a hard time figuring out, what do they mean, one year? Etc. But, I had a bunch of other junk to do, so I had to put it aside.

Stephanie Taber went to the city website and cut it right out for us, read below. 

There it is –  “Refunds may be claimed for City of Chico utility users’ tax paid for cell phone or VOIP services within 12 months prior to the application date”.  

Think what that means – the longer you wait the less money you will be able to claim.  Every month you wait, you lose another month’s tax, money you paid involuntarily, money they took illegally.  Of course, I have to ask – if you apply for your refund before they stop taking the tax from your bills, will you be able to reapply for those bills that came after you applied for your first refund? Oh people, there are so many questions here, and so few willing to ask.

 Thanks again to Stephanie Taber, who is out there asking questions and getting answers.
CITY OF CHICO – FINANCE OFFICE
Location: 411 Main Street, Chico
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 3420, Chico, CA 95927
Phone: (530) 879-7320
TELEPHONE (Cellular Phone or Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP)
USERS’ TAX REFUND APPLICATION
Refunds:
1. Refunds may be claimed for City of Chico utility users’ tax paid for cell phone or
VOIP services within 12 months prior to the application date (i.e., applications filed
in Feb 2013 would cover billing periods Feb 2012-Jan 2013).
2. You may not claim a refund for amounts previously refunded through the City’s
Utility Tax Refund program.
3. Refunds will be issued beginning February 21, 2013.
4. Refunds will be mailed to the name and address on the bill(s).
5. Refund application and copies of bills may be submitted to:
a. The City’s P.O. Box as listed above; or
b. Dropped off on the first floor of City Hall located at 411 Main Street.
Items Required:
1. Copies of phone bills showing utility tax paid. Please note that the bills must show
an address within the Chico city limits.
2. Completed and signed application.
APPLICANT INFORMATION
Name on bill: Street Address on bill:
Zip Code on bill: Contact number:
Mailing Address if different than on bill:
TELEPHONE USERS’ TAX PAID (Only List Actual Tax Paid)
Month Year
Provider/Acct Provider/Acct Provider/Acct Provider/Acct
January $ $ $ $
February $ $ $ $
March $ $ $ $
April $ $ $ $
May $ $ $ $
June $ $ $ $
July $ $ $ $
August $ $ $ $
September $ $ $ $
October $ $ $ $
November $ $ $ $
December $ $ $ $
Total $ $ $ $
1. I certify that the information supplied is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.
2. I understand that any person required to sign and verify any report under the provisions of the City of Chico Municipal
Code, who makes any false or fraudulent request with intent to defeat or evade the determination of any amount, is
guilty of a misdemeanor (City Municipal Code 3.56.160).
Applicant Name: _____________________________________ Date: ____________________
************************************************************************
Internal Use Only: Verified no previous cell phone refund Verified not paid via UUT refund process
Check # issued ____________

Segregating your phone bill – a sample Sprint bill

19 Jan

Sprint is another cellphone carrier I’ve found to collect Utility User’s Tax.  Notice, on page 5 of 5 of this sample bill, “Denver State-Community Service Taxes,” “Denver County 9-1-1,” and “Denver County-Comm Sales Tax.”  I’m assuming, if this bill were made out for a person living in the  city of Chico, it would say “City Utility User’s Tax.” 

This bill specifically refers to “mobile” service, with no reference to a landline.  

UPDATE:  Looking over these bills later, I couldn’t help but note – reread the arguments that Ann Schwab and Scott Gruendl made in favor of Measure J – they insinuate that the “average” cell bill is $50! Look at these “average” bills I’ve posted – these are based on real bills, for two to three users – $150 a month! 

Scott Gruendl is up for re-election in 2014. We need to call that little prick on his bullshit. 

Also, city manager Brian Nakamura keeps repeating, we “lost” $900,000 with the defeat of Measure J. But at last month’s Finance Committee meeting, Hennessy reported the loss for fiscal year 2011-12 was only $500,000, after  the N&R quoted her office boy Frank Fields as estimating it at $600,000 back in November.

Is our city manager just making stuff up?

Segregating your phone bill – a sample AT&T bill

19 Jan

Here below is a sample AT&T bill I found online – looks exactly like my AT&T  bills, but it’s from Texas.

Notice, on pages 2 and 3, you see various amounts attributed to  “City District telecom tax”, “City Telecom Tax”, and “Texas Telecom Tax.”   Here in California we call that “Utility Tax,”  or “Utility User’s Tax”.   City of Chico residents will see, “City” or “Local” or even “City of Chico Utility User’s Tax.”  A turd, by any other name, will still stick to your shoe.

I know, it’s seems like such a mess – but notice this bill makes it very clear that these charges are for “wireless” or cellular phones. All the charges are scrupulously separated, or “segregated”,  out.

Wireless Statement Sample

Wireless Statement Sample

Wireless Statement Sample

Wireless Statement Sample

Cell phone tax refunds now available, back to February 2012. Get ’em before the city runs out of money!

17 Jan

Before I head out to take the laundry down, I wanted to say, I got a note from Frank Fields over in the Finance Department that the cell phone tax refund info and applications have been put on the city website.  Here’s the application with all the information you need:

Click to access CellPhoneRefundApplication_011713.pdf

Yes, I had to bitch at him for it, and he put it up so fast I really don’t understand why it wasn’t up Wednesday by noon.

He also mentioned, they’re still trying to figure out how to notice it publicly. At what these people get paid,  they have to make everything they do look like rocket science.  I asked him to let me know, and I’ll keep watching it. 

That’s what it takes folks – gotta stay on it! 

It never ceases to amaze me the petty maneuvers they go through Downtown to drag as much $taff time out of the process as they can

10 Jan
Look what’s on next Tuesday’s council agenda:
 
2.1. ORDINANCE OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF CHICO AMENDING SECTION 3.56.150 OF
THE CHICO MUNICIPAL CODE REGARDING REFUNDS FOR OVERPAYMENTS AND
ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS OF UTILITY USERS’ TAXES – Final reading and adoption
Adopt –  On December 18, 2012, the Council introduced an ordinance to amend the City’s claims
procedures regarding requests for refunds of overpayments or erroneous payments of utility users’
taxes. The ordinance is now being presented for final reading and adoption by the reading of its title
only.  
 
Unfortunately, the clerk purposely loads these reports in such a manner that I can’t cut and paste from them (she says she’s afraid I’ll edit it, I swear to God, that’s what she told me), so here’s that link –
All they’re doing here is changing the charter to allow people to get a refund without having to first try to get it from the cell phone carrier – that’s what the old law said. I guess we should be glad they’re taking it up at all, but it never ceases to amaze me the petty maneuvers they go through to drag as much staff time out of this process as they can. Look at the number of documents it took just to change this minor little thing. See how many $taffers were involved!
 
There’s no information about actually collecting your rebate, I’m still waiting for staff to get back to me on that. 

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NO on Measure J – No Cell Phone Tax!

17 Sep

It’s always good to listen to people who disagree with you.  If you know what they are thinking, you can oftentimes get them to listen to your point of view, and maybe change their minds.

Sometimes it’s a simple matter of correcting misinformation. For example, the promoters of the new cell phone tax, City of Chico Measure J, are telling people the measure will  lower their taxes. Of course this is not true, but if we don’t step out there and make that clear, people may believe it. We need to make sure people know – the tax is being expanded to forms of electronic communication, like cell phones and pagers, that were not legally taxed before.

Something our opponents are telling us here is  they know people feel overtaxed. They are trying to trick people into voting for this tax increase, they’re telling them it will lower their taxes.  We need to tell people the truth – their cell phone bill will go up!

We also need to remind them, the tax can be further expanded – this measure allows the Finance Director to add any new forms of electronic communication that may be introduced to the consumer, at any time in the future, without voter approval. And, by the way, the tax rate can be raised by vote of council, again, without voter approval.

Finally, we need to ” de-bunk the bunk”, to borrow from an old blog-mate (who, by the way, currently receives over $149,000 per year  in pension). Measure J proponents are using the same old tactic – they are holding “public safety” up like a baby and threatening to throw the baby out the window if they don’t get this tax increase. According to Ann Schwab’s argument in favor,  failure to pass this tax increase “will result in reduced police and fire services, road maintenance and park funds. “ She’s  threatening to throw all my babies out the window, I just can’t believe that woman, Good Gravy,  she’s a  mean one.

Of course we need a competent and adequate staff, public safety and otherwise. But there is nothing in the text of this measure that guarantees we’ll get that. The revenues from Measure J will go into the General Fund, from which they can be spent at the discretion of council, on anything from Spirit Flags to the unmet pension obligations left to us by the CalPERS disaster.

It is a simple thing to tear down this measure, because it’s a bad idea. It is a matter of speaking up and telling people what’s happening. Write those letters – I hope you will find the above points helpful, but I’m sure you have plenty to say for yourselves.