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Call Kurtis: Make sure you're paying the right phone utility tax

Make sure you're paying the right phone utility tax
Make sure you're paying the right phone utility tax 02:10

EL DORADO HILLS — When an El Dorado Hills viewer kept getting her phone lines taxed from a city she hadn't lived in for years, it was time to call on Kurtis Ming to investigate.

It's something you may want to check on in your bill, too.

"I really was very frustrated," Cheryl Fox told CBS13.

She sent along phone bills to the station after she realized she'd been paying a utility tax on her Verizon phone bill for the city of Alameda — but that's a place she hasn't lived since 2017.

"This little tax was adding up," she said. "And it was just the principle."

While small, only about 66 cents a month, she added it up and found out she'd paid more than $80 since she moved.

Cheryl got Verizon to refund her, but the next month it was there again, "Alameda City UTT" right on the bill.

"I thought I was going to have a stroke," she said. "I was beside myself."

So what is a user utility tax? Who pays it and who charges it?

Turns out it's a general tax that cities and counties can impose for services like electricity, gas, water, sewer, cable and phones, both landlines and wireless.

It's a situation that Kurtis helped viewers get refunds for back in 2010 when he learned that AT&T charged several viewers in the unincorporated part of Sacramento County the Sacramento City Utility Tax.

According to the League of California Cities, almost half of the state pays this type of tax on their phones.

CBS13 reached out to Verizon, which wouldn't comment on Cheryl's case directly but noted, "when a customer changes his or her Verizon wireless billing address online, they must also change their service addresses and primary place of use, or PPU."

So, it's one thing to update your billing address, but you also have to update your service address, or where you primarily use your phone.

Cheryl says she was never told that, but the situation was fixed after she came to us the very next day.

So double-check your phone bills and make sure you're not paying utility taxes for somewhere you used to live.

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