Baltimore Thinks It's Exempt From FCC's Opposition To VoIP Taxes

from the what-makes-them-so-special? dept

So far, the FCC has stymied the efforts of various states wanting to tax VoIP, as if it were just a regular phone line. And you’d think that cities would realize that if the states can’t get away with it either, then they probably shouldn’t try. But all that untaxed business is just too much to give up on without a fight. Now the city of Baltimore is suing Vonage for for failing to collect a $3.50 per month tax that the city levies on landlines and mobile phones. Like most taxes of this sort, there’s no real justification for it, except that when it was imposed initially, in 2004, Baltimore had a big budget deficit that needed closing. There are clearly numerous problems with imposing a tax on VoIP, as if it were a discrete voice service, a la mobile phones. And a $3.50 monthly tax is enormous, one that would substantially add to the cost of VoIP service, which often uses price as a major selling point. It’s hard to see how the city could argue that the scheme isn’t just bald-faced attempt to greedily dip its fingers into others’ pots. After all, if it quacks like a duck…

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Comments on “Baltimore Thinks It's Exempt From FCC's Opposition To VoIP Taxes”

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Anonymous Coward says:

with vonage, you get a telephone number. you use vonage like a telephone. heck, it even uses the existing phone cables (unless you have cable internet, and/or call voip to voip) to complete calls.

so, if all other phones are taxes, and vonate is a telephone service…..then tehre.

now this isn’t me being for the tax. i think it’s stupid. i mean, i pay enough in my phone bill and income taxes, why do i have to have a telephone tax?

but then again, this is probably some phone company trying to closeout their competition….

bodhiguy says:

This is a device tax. Pure and simply. Resolution= do away with the device ! You can’t tax packets and without a device VoIP becomes another simple application.

Want to tax UDP ports 1-53 but untax 67-27960?
Want to tax my Skype or AIM conversations?

More specifically, are we just taxing the hand-off from the IP access cloud to the PSTN ? If so, STOP USING PHONE NUMBERS !! IP to IP has an astonishing effect on a lot of things, if you just step back and analyze it for a minute.

If Vonage would give away their softphone instead of charging for it, this could some some of their problems as well.


bodhiguy says:

Re: The good old days

I remember it well Bill. It was known as the Clinton administration 🙂 Remember that 4 trillion dollar SURPLUS? Well it’s gone now and guess where it went–fighting terrorism. All the while the real terrorists sit in their comfortable air conditioned offices and airplanes, misdirecting (triangulation) the attention away form themselves onto others claimed “they” are the real terrorists. While at the same time grotesquely manipulating and misusing the power WE entrusted them with.

Anonymous Coward says:

just because it’s internet infastructure, doesn’t mean it’s still not telephony. DSL lines are actually telephone lines. dialup is still telephone lines. (remember, diallup is still the largest way to connect to the net) and in order to keep telephone/dsl lines up, you have to have an actual telephone line. therefore you pay the tax. even if you have 2 phonelines on one “physical” line (remember telephone has 2 twisted pairs per cable and only one pair is needed for communication) so you pay 2x the tax. this is no different.

so yes, vonage must go someplace and be turned from internet packets into “telephone packets”

ok, so maybe the devices isn’t 100% telephony. instead, how about charge 30% of the 3.50 tax because say about 30% of the time it’s on “telephoyn” infastructure.

as i said, i don’t like the tax. i don’t think it should exist. however i am able to see why some belive the tax to be “applicable” in this case. i wish we had smart people who run the country (this goes for all parties, major and minor those in power, those seeking power)

now…as chris rock said…out of 30 kid class, 5 smart, 5 dumb and 20 average. the nation is run by b and c students!

Kuru Oujou says:

Re: Re:

You have been thinking about this, but have only thought about it halfway through. VoIP runs over the internet. Since, as you say, most people are on dial-up, they are already paying the 3.50 tax. As are the people on DSL. So, duing that specific transmission, they will be paying 3.50 PLUS the 30% of that you said.

And as for your last comment, you have clearly never been here. out of a 30 kid class, 25 dumb, 2 smart and 3 average.

Brian (user link) says:


Not that anyone probably cares, but these types of taxes are called franchise fees and they are typically imposed because telecommunications franchises (and other utilities) put their infrastructure in the public right of way. That fee is for use of the right of way, as well as the government’s cost to manage it (digging up streets, contract management, etc.).

This fee model has been in place since probably the 19th century and it is breaking down. But at the same time franchise fees are a critical revenue source for local governments and eliminating them will affect public services like law enforcement and fire protection.

gman says:

Well....your half right...

These taxes can be franchise fees, the corporations see these fees as taxes and can pass them on to customers as “taxes” or “fees” but the real question is when do you pay the franchise fees.

If I connect to the internet via my cable then the cable company sends me a bill that will invariably have some “government fees” on it. Same from my local telephone provider.

When I connect to the internet and VOIP with some one I am using my internet connection for an internet service. I have paid my “fees” and I am consuming my goods as the law allows.

If I hook up a device (mini-computer) that acts as my computer does and allows me to VOIP over the same internet connection there should be no additional “tax” or “fee”. I have already paid my fee to be on that network or “government authorized stretch of wires” and should not be taxed again for “use of the ROW”.

This logic also works for the receiver on a telephone network. They have already paid their fees to be on their network and the internet phone service is paying a company who has already paid their fees to connect the call on to the telephone network, which they pass that cost on to me in the form of a monthly subscription.

What is really happening is that people have left the telephone network and are now handling all their communication over their cable networks. This has probably reduced the franchise fees coming in to the munincipalities or , like many before have mentioned, it is seen as an “untapped revenue source”.

What it boils down to is a tax on a device that I have already paid sales tax on (or not, thanks newegg), with dollars that were taxed as I earned them, sitting in a house that I pay property taxes on, on a network built on public land that I am taxed to use.

Not that public services aren’t needed and taxes pay for those, but c’mon guys…..

Whether it’s a tax on a device or tax on the internet we are basing our budgets on things that could be gone in an instant with one well placed EMP.

Anyone want to talk about North Korea?

Anonymous Coward says:

Kuru…if you would have read my last part i said it was a comment from one of Chris Rock’s stand up segments. so tell mr. rock that 2 smart, 3 average and 25 dumb.

as i mentined before, if you have 2 lines, you pay double tax (each line has it’s own fees and whatnot) even though you have one physical wire. well, with voip, you have your “phone” and regular phone. thus double tax is fine (well not really coz taxes suck, but do you see where i’m getting at?) so yeah, you paid your first tax for the line, but you are using hte line a second time, so you gotta pay another tax on that. (because i take a toll rode once, does that mean i don’t have to pay ever again?)

bodhiguy, do you pay a satelite tax? same thing applies as stated above.

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