Monday, February 28, 2011

10 states with astronomical cell phone taxes

Nebraska tops the list, with total taxes of 23.69%. Oregon has the lowest rate, 1.81%.

Just how much do we love our cell phones? So much so that, in most places across the United State, we're willing to put up with astronomical taxes to stay connected.

An analysis of cell phone taxes by the Tax Foundation finds that the levies on the devices are significantly higher than many other common consumer items.

And while we tend to complain about the IRS, in this case the tax damage is more local.

The average U.S. wireless customer pays taxes and fees of 16.26%, says the Tax Foundation, with state-local charges accounting for 11.21% of that overall amount.

Worse, the Washington, D.C.-based tax research group found that state and local governments often hide or obscure the fees. In fact, my home state of Texas even sued Sprint because the company listed a state tax as a line-item in its bill, rather than hiding it from customers.

So where does your state rank on the cell phone tax list?

Nebraska is the biggest cell phone taxer. Its combined federal-state-local average tax rate is 23.69%. Four other states -- Florida, Illinois, New York and Washington -- have total cell phone tax rates of more than 20%.

Here are the top 10 highest cell phone taxing states, with their combined average federal, state and local cell phone tax rates:

•Nebraska, 23.69%

•Washington, 23%

•New York, 22.83%

•Florida, 21.62%

•Illinois, 20.90%

•Rhode Island, 19.67%

•Missouri, 19.28%

•Pennsylvania, 19.13%

•Kansas, 18.39%

•Texas, 17.48%

Overall, 23 states and the nation's capital have average state-local wireless taxes and fees in excess of 10%.

Locally, Baltimore, Md., imposes a $4 per line per month tax on wireless users. The Charm City assessment is on top of federal and state charges. The Washington, D.C., suburb of Montgomery County, Md., charges cell phone users a monthly $3.50 per line tax.

And where is making a mobile call not so costly? Head west, cell phone users.

Oregon's state and local tax rate is just 1.81%. Nevada's rate is 2.02%. In Idaho, cell phone users pay 2.20% in state and local taxes.

From those three low-tax states, the cell phone state and local rates jump to 6.03% (that's in Montana) and just keep climbing.

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