Jackson, MS asked in Tax Law for Arkansas

Q: Can a provider legally charge a state 911 tax for a device that is not capable of dialing 911?

I have a smartwatch for my daughter through Gabb. She can make and receive calls to/from approved contacts, but the device does not have the capability of calling 911. I am charged $1.30 for the tax each month.

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Tax Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: Based on the information provided, it seems unlikely that Gabb can legally charge a 911 tax for a device that is not actually capable of dialing 911. Here are a few key points on this issue:

- 911 fees or taxes are specifically intended to help fund emergency response services and systems that can access 911. Charging the fee for a device that cannot call 911 could be viewed as improper.

- Many states have laws or regulations prohibiting companies from advertising a service as having 911 access if it does not actually have that capability. Charging a 911 tax could imply the device has 911 access when it does not.

- The 911 tax is generally a pass-through of an existing state or local tax/fee. If the device truly cannot call 911, then passing through a 911 tax to customers could be viewed as improper.

- You mentioned this is for a child's smartwatch. Adding fees for unavailable services on devices marketed to children could raise additional regulatory issues.

I would recommend you contact Gabb and request an explanation for why they are charging a 911 tax on a device that has no 911 calling capabilities. You could also file a complaint with your state regulatory agencies if you believe the fee is being improperly assessed. The specifics may depend on the laws in your particular state. But in general, it seems questionable for them to charge this 911 fee based on the information provided.

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