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Taxing Wireless to Pay for‰Û_West Virginia Tourism?!

by Lee Schalk / /

File this one under bizarre tax legislation. Last week, West Virginia state Senator H. Truman Chafin introduced SB 259, which would hit wireless businesses with a $10 million tax hike to fund the West Virginia Division of Tourism.

According to the bill, the new revenue would be used “for the promotion and maintenance of outdoor activities including, but not limited to, skiing and white water rafting.”

While I enjoy carving up snowy mountains and navigating angry river rapids as much as the next guy, I fail to see why wireless companies should foot the bill for their promotion and maintenance. But maybe that’s just me.

Unfortunately, “hidden” cell phone tax legislation like SB 259 is all-too-common these days. In fact, the average nationwide tax burden on wireless service is a whopping 17.2 percent, including federal, state, and local taxes, according to a 2012 study by Scott Mackey of KSE Partners, LLP. To put things in perspective, the average tax rate on other goods and services is 7.4 percent. The study also found that, on average, wireless customers pay an extra $8.07 per month in taxes and fees as a result. That $8.07 is simply another regressive tax that hurts low-income earners in the midst of our stagnating economy and rising health care costs.

Instead of forcing wireless companies (and in turn, cell phone users) to cough up an extra $10 million for tourism, lawmakers in Charleston should focus on scaling back state spending, which soared in the Mountain State by 43 percent between 2000 and 2010.

To avoid higher wireless bills, West Virginia taxpayers should tell Senator Chafin and company that ski slopes, river rapids, and cell phones don’t mix.