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Customer Questions & Answers

1. Why did my telephone bill change?

Two telephone tax changes took effect on August 1, 2013.

The Washington Telephone Assistance Program (WTAP) and Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) taxes expired and no longer apply. If you have a conventional business or residential wireline (switched access) telephone line, you will see a tax decrease of $0.31 per line.

However, retail sales tax will now apply to local (residentially tariffed) telephone service that uses conventional wireline (switched access) telephone lines. This type of flat-rate local residential telephone service was previously exempt from retail sales tax.

2. But the taxes on my phone bill increased. Why?

If you have local (residentially tariffed) telephone service using a conventional wireline (switched access) telephone line, sales tax will now apply to that service. The applicable sales tax will likely exceed the $0.31 combined WTAP/TRS tax decrease, so consumers will in many cases end up paying a little more in tax on their bills for local residential telephone service.

3. Why wasn't my wireless telephone bill or my Internet (VoIP) telephone bill affected by these changes?

The WTAP/TRS taxes only applied to conventional wireline (switched access) telephone lines. These taxes never applied to wireless telephone lines (cellular providers) or Internet telephone service lines (cable and other Internet phone service providers).

The previous retail sales tax exemption applied only to local (residentially tariffed) telephone service that uses conventional wireline (switched access) technology. It did not generally apply to telecommunications services using more recent technology. When the exemption expired, it did not affect the taxes on these services.

4. Who should I contact if I have questions about my phone bill?

You should first contact your telephone service provider if you have questions about your billing for telephone services. These are charges and fees (not administered by the Department) that the telecommunications provider is in the best position to explain because they produce the bill. If you do not get a satisfactory answer to your questions relating to Washington State, the Department of Revenue can try to assist with these questions. For additional help, the FCC has a guide Understanding Your Telephone Bill.