OMG: Text message tax spreading through California

Like H1N1, the notion of taxing text messages and other new electronic forms of communication has taken root and is threatening to go pandemic.

The city of Vallejo, Calif. is voting today on expanding utility taxes to include text messages, pager messages and VOIP calls. The measure would lump these together with gas, electricity, water and other utilities, while lowering the overall utility tax rate from 7.5% to 7.3%.

This follows the example set by Sacramento and 40 other towns in California which have added electronic communications to their taxable utilities, both to reduce the burden on those clinging to land-lines and to increase city revenue.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Vallejo's general fund has lost $18 million in the past two years. It declared bankruptcy in 2008.

While officials contend that the change will have only a minimal impact on a typical resident's utility bill, some locals are concerned that the measure opens up the door for taxes on other forms of communication not presently taxed. I'm wondering about passenger pigeons.

As more and more people abandon land-lines, many communities will be looking to replace lost tax revenue by charging for text messages, voice-over-Internet calls, e-mails, and IM conversations. If they could, some would probably charge by the syllable for face-to-face coffee house conversations. If so, we'd probably learn to abbrev wht we sed 2 sv $.

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