Cell Phone Taxes Explained

If you think charges on your bill are a mistake, question your provider as Kim Lankford helped one reader do.

Although I live in Rhode Island, this month the taxes, surcharges and fees on my Sprint wireless bill increased due to myriad new charges from Vancouver, Wash.; Clark County, where Vancouver is located; and Washington State. Sprint's customer-service representative explained that I would have to pay the taxes because my coverage area had changed. Another rep said that I could be charged state taxes just by staying in a state for a week (although I haven't been to the West Coast in more than a year). Is this a common billing practice among wireless companies?

No way. It's not even a common practice at Sprint, which admits that the taxes on your bill were a mistake and that you were misinformed by its representatives.

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Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.