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A House Judiciary subcommittee on Thursday passed the Cell Tax Fairness Act of 2009, a bipartisan bill designed to ban new state or local taxes on mobile phones for the next five years. As it stands, cell phone customers pay on average over 15 percent in taxes on their wireless service, compared to about 7 percent on other taxable goods, according to Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).
"While family members are forced into paying more money, out-of-pocket, to communicate with one another, these predatory taxes are often squandered on projects that have little to do with improving the communications network," an advocate group called the National Taxpayers Union wrote in a letter earlier this year.
What the bill won't do is affect current taxes, ban new federal taxes, or apply to fees that subsidize emergency 911 services and contributions to the Universal Service Fund.
"The Cell Tax Fairness Act does not take away any existing revenue for state or local governments, it simply calls for a period of tax stabilization," Lofgren said.
The bill seems destined to go through. It has the support of the entire wireless industry, particularly Verizon, which is pushing to have it passed before Congress goes on recess for the midterm elections.