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Californian City Proposes Tax on Texting

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Voters living in the Californian city of Sacramento will be given the opportunity to vote on a measure which will extend an existing utility tax to include SMS messages. Currently the tax is applied to voice calls from mobile phones, along with electricity, gas and television services but does not include text messages.

While the measure will extend the utility tax to text messages, it will also lower the tax rate from 7.5% to 7% - and also include internet phone services for the first time.

City of Sacramento Treasurer Russ Fehr cannot say how much revenue will be raised by widening the tax take, but did say that the current utility tax raises some USD20 million per year for the city.

The lobby group, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is opposing the measure - and has previously sued to try and claim the tax on cellphone bills is illegal.

"The city is packaging an increase as a tax reduction," said Timothy Bittle, from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers' Association. "Communication is a basic human right. It's a constitutional right. It's free speech. Why do we have to be taxed?"

Voters will be able to vote on the tax change this coming November. Under California's Proposition 218, voters have the right to vote on all local taxes, and requires taxpayer approval of assessments and property-related fees.

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Tags: tax  television