Most of us go to our mailboxes expecting to find bills sandwiched between stacks of junk mail. However, lucky Verizon Wireless customers in the state of New York have been receiving unexpected checks from Verizon in the mail for refunds of a gross revenue tax from 2008 to 2014.
But why exactly is Verizon issuing a tax rebate?
Investigators from various news outlets had difficulty tracking down the origin of these checks. The Albany Times Union reached out to the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance, which said that it could not verify the purpose of these payouts for privacy reasons, and the state’s Public Utilities Commission, which said that it had nothing to do with changes to mobile plan taxes.
Writers at Consumerist were finally able to get to the bottom of these mysterious tax refunds. A spokesperson for Verizon explained that from 2008 to 2014, consumers were billed under the assumption that mobile phone plans are “local” plans and thus subject to the state’s gross revenue tax. In 2015, The Department of Taxation and Finance issued a memo titled “Application of Tax Law Section 184 to Mobile Telecommunication Service Providers”, explaining that because the services of companies like Verizon are not limited to a single local access and transport area, they are not to be treated as local businesses. The Verizon spokesperson explained that “the State recently refunded some of the remitted funds to Verizon, and we have returned those refunds to current and former Verizon Wireless customers.” This explains why these checks have not appeared until now, even though the tax changed in 2015.
This is not the first time Verizon has had to refund consumers in recent years. In 2010, malfunctioning software charged upwards of 15 million Verizon customers with monthly data fees between $2 and $6 even though these users did not enroll in data plans. Though Verizon credited these customers’ accounts, they did not explain why it took two years for the reimbursement and why they were so slow to disclose the issue.
Have you received any unexplained rebate checks in the mail? Let us help you get to the bottom of it and reach out to us at ConsiderTheConsumer@gmail.com.