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AT&T Has Been Charging Portland Customers for a Tax It Won’t Pay

Cellphone providers are exempt from the tax. The charges are unwarranted.

In August, an AT&T cellphone customer alerted WW that the carrier was passing along the Portland Clean Energy Tax to users ("Charges May Apply," WW, Aug. 28, 2019).

Turns out such charges are unwarranted.

The city's Revenue Bureau, which is in charge of collecting the new tax, classifies cellphone providers as utilities—and utilities are exempt from the tax, which is levied on retailers with $500,000 in sales in Portland and more than $1 billion nationally.

The definition of which utility companies qualify as retailers remains somewhat unclear.

Meanwhile, Scott Karter, a manager in the Revenue Bureau, says it's up to companies to decide whether to repay monies they've collected from customers. "The code does not specifically address amounts that might be over-collected from customers," Karter says.

AT&T did not respond to a request for comment.