WASTE WATCH: Cell phone taxes

Updated: Monday, November 4 2013, 07:46 PM CST
WASTE WATCH: Cell phone taxes  story image
Cell phone bills can be confusing.                
It's hard to tell what you're being charged and how much you owe in added fees and taxes.

And for people getting squeezed in tough economic times -- these charges can really add up.

Maybe you've noticed the huge gap between wireless service provider quotes you for service and what you're actually paying.

Maybe that gap is growing each year.
It could be all those nearly impossible to pin down wireless services and fees on your bill.

Florida actually ranks in the top five in the nation when it comes to highest cell-phone taxes -- and that's not good for your wallet.

Some people want to know.
Jaymond Allison
"I've always wondered where the money actually went to, and as to why it costs so much."

Others -- not so much.
Unknown guy "I really don't pay attention to it."

More than 18 million cell phones in Florida -- and that number is growing daily.
Calls, texts and data use -- detailed on your bill -- it's enough to make the head spin.

But here's the kicker -- most of us are paying an extra 15-20 percent on each bill -- with local, state and federal governments -- school districts and 911 systems -- adding on taxes and surcharges.

Rachel Vrooman
"Absolutely I think it should be looked at. It's a little bit excessive."

Florida has the fourth highest state cell phone tax in the nation -- more than double the amount of the state sales tax.

Joseph Franzone
"We all use our phones around here. So any little bit could help as far as the pricing goes."

Florida state senator Dorothy Hukill filed a bill to reduce the communication services tax by two percent -- saving Florida taxpayers more than 282 million dollars.

Cell phones were once considered a luxury -- and taxed as such.
Over the years the prices have dropped -- but the taxes did not.
Do we question where that money goes?

Rachel Vrooman
" When you see something that's a governmental tax, you just kind of assume it's something you should pay and not question."

Some of the tax money goes to schools, 9-11 services and state and local government.
The fees go to things like regulatory costs -- and the Universal Service Fund -- which helps ensure affordable service in rural and low-income areas.

Many cell phone carriers support an effort to reduce the tax -- they say customers often complain about the high rates.

Jaymond Allison
"I don't know. I don't see a reason why it would cost so much, and why they would legally be able to raise that percentage as well."

While consumers might not be able to do much to avoid paying these charges -- there are some ways you can trim back other areas of the bill -- to help cushion the blow.

-Don't be complacent -- check out each statement to make sure you're not overpaying. Adjust your plan if needed.
-call your carrier and voice any billing issues or concerns
-be text smart -- texting is the most expensive communication. Does an unlimited plan make financial sense.

The Wireless Tax Fairness Act was introduced in congress again this year.
It puts a five-year freeze on  any new state and local taxes when it comes to cell phones and other wireless communications.

That bill passed the House -- but stalled in the senate.

WASTE WATCH: Cell phone taxes
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