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Verizon Wireless Customers In New York Are Receiving Surprise Checks: Here’s Why

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If you’re a current or former Verizon Wireless customer in New York state, you may get a check in the mail soon from Verizon. It’s a refund of taxes paid on your wireless bill in the past, as far back as 2008.

Unexpected tax refunds… from Verizon?

People across New York state have started to receive mysterious checks from Verizon Wireless that they weren’t expecting. Information on the checks indicates that they’re refunds of a gross revenue tax covering the period from 2008 to 2014. What does that mean?

The Albany Times Union looked into the mystery checks, and found that no one at the state or Verizon either knew or could say what the checks were.

The Times Union contacted a spokesperson for the state Department of Taxation and Finance, who told the newspaper that he couldn’t say what the refunds were for for privacy reasons.

The state Public Utilities Commission, which oversees telecommunications companies, had nothing to do with the change to mobile plan taxes, and told the TU that it had nothing to add.

Not-so-local phones

Consumerist contacted Verizon to learn more, and confirmed the real reason for the checks. They are indeed refunds of a tax collected from 2008 to 2014 on mobile phone plans under the assumption that they were “local” plans, and that the state’s gross revenue tax applied.

In 2015, the Department of Taxation and Finance decided that mobile phone bills aren’t “local” phone service, and issued a technical memo [PDF] explaining the change in taxes on mobile phone bills.

“The State recently refunded some of the remitted funds to Verizon, and we have returned those refunds to current and former Verizon Wireless Customers,” a Verizon spokesman told Consumerist. That’s why the checks are showing up now, even though the tax changed in 2015.

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