911 Phone Line Taxes

What do the 70 cent and 25 cent phone taxes for 911 support?

In Washington State, as part of the implementation of Enhanced 9-1-1 statewide, counties were authorized to levy up to a $.70 per line tax on wireline and cellular telephones used within their boundaries. This local tax had to be passed in order for counties to be able to have access to State funds to help support their local enhanced 9-1-1 systems.

The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) stipulates what enhanced 9-1-1 tax revenue can be used for. Generally, it can only be spent to support enhanced 9-1-1 equipment and services. In 2003, Kittitas County will collect about $200,000 from 911 taxes tax to support KITTCOM, but our incoming 9-1-1 telephone trunks and database charges alone will cost about $140,000. (The reason that 9-1-1 calls appear to be “free” to callers is because 9-1-1 centers must pay the local exchange carriers for the network and line charges.) Additional necessary 911 services and maintenance will use up the rest of the locally collected money.

A 25 cents per line tax is collected at the State level and these funds are allocated back to the counties to pay for additional WAC eligible expenses if a county (like Kittitas) has insufficient local phone tax revenue from the 70 cent tax to completely support itself. The intent of this program was to assist small counties with low populations to implement and maintain enhanced 9-1-1 systems so it is available to all residents statewide. The Washington State Enhanced 9-1-1 Program Office staff allocates these funds.

Over the last few years, Kittitas County has received approximately $4.5 million from the State from the 25 cent tax pool – considerably more than the County’s residents have paid into the fund. These funds supported the construction of our new facility, the expansion of our radio and alerting systems, and support for the center’s computer aided dispatch (CAD) and telephone systems.

Some people believe that these taxes fully support the entire 9-1-1 system including all operations and salaries, but that is not the case. Most of KITTCOM’s operating expenses are paid for by the public safety agencies that KITTCOM serves.

In 2003, the tax on cellular phones was changed to be equal to the tax rates for wireline phones. These funds help pay for systems that assist 911 dispatchers by providing a caller’s cellular phone number and either the cell site location the caller’s signal is hitting (FCC Phase I) or the location of the caller (FCC Phase II).

KITTCOM is capable of receiving and displaying approximate location information from cellular phones if the customer’s wireless carrier provides the necessary data.