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TMCNet:  Tax Foundation: Oregon cell phone taxes lowest in the nation

[January 31, 2013]

Tax Foundation: Oregon cell phone taxes lowest in the nation

Jan 30, 2013 (The Oregonian - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Like to gab on your cell phone It's cheaper to do it in Oregon than anywhere else in the country.

The state doesn't charge sales tax on your new phone, and a new report says Oregon has lower cell phone taxes than anywhere else on the country.

It costs a lot more just across the river. Washington has a sales tax, of course, along with the second-highest cell phone taxes in the nation, according to today's report from the Tax Foundation.

The group's report says that Oregon consumers pay average state and local taxes equal to 1.85 percent of their bill. That's compared to an average of 11.36 percent nationally, according to the Tax Foundation's findings.

The report finds Nebraska has the highest average cell phone taxes in the nation, at 18.7 percent. Washington is right behind at 18.6 percent.

Oregon's low ranking isn't a surprise -- few cities in the state have cell phone taxes, despite sporadic efforts to impose them. The history dates to the 1990s, when Eugene adopted a cell phone tax that was challenged in court and blocked until 2003.


Other cities took a wait-and-see attitude until the Eugene case was resolved. By then, cell phone use had become widespread and consumers -- and wireless carriers -- would not tolerate such a tax.

In 2004, for example, former Portland Commissioner Randy Leonard proposed a 5 percent cell phone tax (along with a small reduction in taxes on landline phones.) City officials and wireless carriers agreed that consumers would likely end up footing the bill for the tax -- adding $2 to a $40 monthly cell phone bill (which was typical back then, before the rise of the smartphone). Leonard expected the tax would provide $6 million in new annual revenue, which he proposed using to cut business taxes and pay for jail cells and drug treatment programs.

Leonard pulled his plan late that year when it failed to generate support from his colleagues on the Portland City Council.

Some smaller Oregon cities do have cell phone taxes, though, and that's presumably what's driving the 1.5 percent rate in the Tax Foundation's filings.

The organization bills itself as nonpartisan, but it isn't shy about campaigning for lower taxes.

Regardless of your politics, the report jibes with prior research. For the source of its data, the Tax Foundation cites wireless industry consultant Scott Mackey, who conducted a similar study in 2004 with similar results.

-- Mike Rogoway; twitter: @rogoway; phone: 503-294-7699 ___ (c)2013 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) Visit The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) at www.oregonian.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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