Difference between revisions of "California Utility User Taxes"

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The rate of a UUT is set by the city in which it is levied.  UUT's can be imposed:
 
The rate of a UUT is set by the city in which it is levied.  UUT's can be imposed:
  
* As a special tax.
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* As a special tax, earmarked for a specific purpose.
* Earmarked for a specific purpose.
+
 
* As a general tax to be used for a variety of municipal service needs at the discretion of the city council.  
 
* As a general tax to be used for a variety of municipal service needs at the discretion of the city council.  
  

Revision as of 16:46, 20 June 2014

Utility User Taxes (UUTs) in California are taxes that cities and counties are allow to impose on the consumption of certain utility services. As of September 2008, city and county UUTs generated about $2 billion per year in tax revenues.

About 146 California cities and 4 counties have a UUT. In nearly all these cases, the UUT was adopted prior to 1996 through a vote of the city council or the County Board of Supervisors. However, after the 1996 passage of Prop 218, to pass such a tax, the voters who would be paying the tax had to approve it directly through voting on a ballot measure.

About half of all California residents pay a UUT, because although the tax only applies in a relatively small minority of California cities, the cities in which it does apply includes nearly all of the cities in the state with higher populations.

Voter approval of UUTs

From June 2002 through June 2008, 83 utility user tax measures were placed before voters by cities and counties. Two of these were county measures and 81 were for cities.

  • 30 proposals were for new or increased UUTs. Only six of these proposals were approved.
  • 19 of the 30 were for an increase in the UUT tax rate. Only two of those passed.
  • 19 measures asked to increase an existing UUT past a built-in sunset period. 16 of those measures passed.

There has been a trend in recent years for cities with UUTs to change their ordinances to ensure that it applies to all modern forms of telecommunications (wireless and internet) and billing methods (flat rates).

  • 23 cities proposed such changes between June 2002 and June 2008. 22 of those requests were approved.
  • Citizens placed 14 referenda placed on the ballot seeking to repeal or alter local UUTs.
    • Seven measures seeking total repeal failed.
  • Four out of five measures seeking to reduce the UUT tax rate failed.
  • In Greenfield, voters reduced their UUT from 6% to 3%.
  • A referendum to restrict the use of UUT revenues to law enforcement services passed in Seaside (Monterey County) in November 2002.

Taxable utilities

The list of utilities that can be taxed with a UUT includes:

  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Water
  • Sewer
  • Telephone (including cell phones and long distance services)
  • Sanitation
  • Cable television.

UUT tax rates

City UUTs range from a low of 1% to a high of 11%.

The rate of a UUT is set by the city in which it is levied. UUT's can be imposed:

  • As a special tax, earmarked for a specific purpose.
  • As a general tax to be used for a variety of municipal service needs at the discretion of the city council.

The tax is levied by the city, and then collected by the relevant utility as a part of its regular billing procedure. The utility then sends the tax it has collected on behalf of the city to the city.

Some cities charge different tax rates for residential usage versus commercial usage.

Counties with a UUT

Just four of California's 58 counties levy a UUT. They are:

UUTs and the FET

Many of the UUTs in California refer to the Federal Excise Tax (FET) in defining which utilities are covered by the tax. The FET does not cover certain telecommunications services. FET, for instance, does not cover:

  • Telephone calls which are not charged based on both time and distance (those paid by coin in phone booths, for example).
  • Any cell phone bills which are based on a package which provides a mix of local and long-distance calling for a flat rate. (In 2007, the IRS ruled that telephone service packages which provide a mix of local and long-distance calling for a flat rate or a fixed fee are not subject to the FET.)

When California cities realized that the wording of their UUT ordinance, by tying which utilities are covered by the tax to the FET's definition, did not allow them to extend their UUT to charging the tax on cell phone usage. Since cell phone usage is becoming more common, even replacing landline use, especially for younger people, cities feared loss of UUT revenues.

As a result, a number of city councils began putting before voters ballot measures to change the ordinance defining which telecommunications services could be taxed with their local UUT so that they could tax cell phone usage.

Election results

2013

April 9

See also April 9, 2013 ballot measures in California
Measure County Outcome
City of Vernon Utility Users Tax, Measure M Los Angeles Pending

March 5

See also March 5, 2013 ballot measures in California
Measure County Outcome
City of Monterey Park Utility Users Tax, Measure MP-DD Los Angeles Approveda
City of Rialto Utility User Tax Extension, Measure W San Bernardino Approveda

2012

November 6

See also November 6, 2012 election in California

Ten utility tax measures were on the November 6, 2012 ballot in nine different counties.

Measure County Outcome
Arcata (City of), Measure I Humboldt Approveda
Bellflower (City of), Measure P Los Angeles Approveda
Berkeley (City of), Measure Q Alameda Approveda
Chico (City of), Measure J Butte Defeatedd
Citrus Heights, Measure K Sacramento Defeatedd
Downey (City of), Measure D Los Angeles Approveda
Los Alamitos (City of), Measure DD Orange Approveda
Needles (City of), Measure T San Bernardino Approveda
Pinole (City of), Measure M Contra Costa Approveda
San Luis Obispo (City of), Measure D San Luis Obispo Approveda

September 18

See also September 18, 2012 ballot measures in California
Measure County Outcome
City of Vernon, Measure A Los Angeles Approveda

June 5

See also June 5, 2012 ballot measures in California
Measure County Outcome
Foresthill PUD, Measure C Placer Approveda
Parlier, Measure S Fresno Defeatedd
Stanton, Measure J Orange Defeatedd

April 10

See also April 10, 2012 ballot measures in California
Measure County Outcome
Bradbury, Measure A Los Angeles Defeatedd
Sierra Madre, Measure 12-1 Los Angeles Defeatedd
Sierra Madre, Measure 12-2 Los Angeles Defeatedd

2011

November 8

See also November 8, 2011 ballot measures in California
Measure County Outcome
Brawley, Measure K Imperial Approveda
Holtville, Measure M Imperial Defeatedd
Holtville, Measure N Imperial Defeatedd
Holtville, Measure O Imperial Defeatedd
Modesto, Measure N Stanislaus Approveda
South Pasadena, Measure UT Los Angeles Approveda

June 7

See also June 7, 2011 ballot measures in California
Measure County Outcome
Rio Vista Rollback, Measure A Solano Defeatedd

2010

November 2

See also November 2, 2010 election in California
Measure County
Albany, Measure O Alameda Approveda
Bellflower, Measure A Los Angeles Defeatedd
Chula Vista, Measure H San Diego Defeatedd
El Segundo, Measure O Los Angeles Defeatedd
Elk Grove, Measure J Sacramento Approveda
Guadalupe, Measure P Santa Barbara Defeatedd
Huntington Beach, Measure P Orange Approveda
Indio, Measure S Riverside Approveda
La Palma, Measure U Orange Approveda
Lincoln, Measure K Placer Defeatedd
Mountain View, Measure T Santa Clara Approveda
Newark, Measure U Alameda Approveda
Oakland, Measure W Alameda Defeatedd
Oroville, Measure A Butte Approveda
Pinole, Measure S Contra Costa Defeatedd
Placentia, Measure W Orange Approveda
Pleasant Hill, Measure T Contra Costa Defeatedd
Pomona, Measure SP Los Angeles Defeatedd
Port Hueneme, Measure G Ventura Approveda
Rancho Cordova, Measure E Sacramento Approveda
Santa Cruz City, Measure H Santa Cruz Approveda
Santa Fe Springs, Measure S Los Angeles Approveda

June 8

See also June 8, 2010 election in California
Measure County Outcome
Coachella, Measure I Riverside Approveda
Mammoth Lakes, Measure U Mono Approveda
Winters, Measure W Yolo Approveda

April 13

See also April 13, 2010 ballot measures in California
Measure County Outcome
El Segundo, Measure M Los Angeles Approveda

2009

November 3

See also November 3, 2009 ballot measures in California
Measure County Outcome
Coachella, Measure M Riverside Defeatedd
Cupertino Measure B Santa Clara Approveda
Dinuba Measure M Tulare Approveda
Huntington Park Measure E Los Angeles Approveda
Irwindale Measure U Los Angeles Approveda
Newark, Measure L Alameda Defeatedd
Palm Springs, Measure G Riverside Approveda
Pico Rivera Measure TR Los Angeles Approveda
Pomona Measure PC Los Angeles Approveda
Portola Valley, Measure P San Mateo Approveda
Redondo Beach UU Los Angeles Defeatedd
Tulare Measure N Tulare Approveda
Vallejo, Measure U Solano Approveda

June 9

See also June 9, 2009 ballot measures in California
Measure County Outcome
City of Arcadia Utility Users Tax, Measure A (June 2009) Los Angeles Approveda

May 19

See also May 19, 2009 ballot measures in California
Measure County Outcome
City of Hayward Utility Users Tax, Measure A (May 2009) Alameda Approveda
City of Desert Hot Springs Utility Users Tax, Measure A (May 2009) Riverside Approveda
City of Rancho Cordova Utility Users Tax, Measure B (May 2009) Sacramento Defeatedd

March 3

See also March 3, 2009 ballot measures in California
Measure County Outcome
City of Bellflower Utility User Tax, Measure A (March 2009) Los Angeles Approveda
City of Carson Utility User Tax, Measure C (March 2009) Los Angeles Approveda
City of Gardena Utility User Tax, Measure A (March 2009) Los Angeles Approveda
City of Redondo Beach Utility User Tax, Measure A (March 2009) Los Angeles Approveda

2008

November 4

See also November 4, 2008 ballot measures in California
Measure County Outcome
City of Cathedral City Utility Users Tax, Measure L (November 2008) Riverside Approveda
Eureka Sales Tax/Utility Tax Measure D Humboldt Approveda
City of Hawthorne Utility Users Tax, Measure V (November 2008) Los Angeles Approveda
City of Hemet Utility Users Tax, Measure O (November 2008) Riverside Defeatedd
Holtville Measure C, 2008 Imperial Defeatedd
City of Indio Utility Users Tax, Measure K (November 2008) Riverside Approveda
City of Inglewood Utility Users Tax, Measure UUT (November 2008) Los Angeles Approveda
City of Lakewood Utility Users Tax, Measure L (November 2008) Los Angeles Approveda
City of Long Beach Utility Users Tax, Measure G (November 2008) Los Angeles Approveda
Unincorporated Areas of the County of Los Angeles Utility Users Tax, Measure U (November 2008) Los Angeles Approveda
City of Lynwood Utility Users Tax, Measures HH and II (November 2008) Los Angeles Approveda
City of Moreno Valley Utility Users Tax, Measure P (November 2008) Riverside Approveda
City of Morgan Hill Utility Users Tax, Measure G (November 2008) Santa Clara Defeatedd
City of Pomona Utility Users Tax, Measure PC (November 2008) Los Angeles Defeatedd
Rossmoor Incorporation and Utility Tax, Measures U-A, U-B and U-C (November 2008) Orange Defeatedd
City of Sacramento Utility Users Tax, Measure O (November 2008) Sacramento Approveda
San Francisco Telephone Tax, Proposition O (November 2008) San Francisco Approveda
City of San Gabriel Utility Users Tax, Measure SG (November 2008) Los Angeles Approveda
City of San Jose Telecommunications Taxes, Measures J and K (November 2008) Santa Clara Approveda
City of San Leandro Utility Users Tax, Measure RR (November 2008) Alameda Approveda
City of Santa Barbara Utility Users Tax, Measure G (November 2008) Santa Barbara Approveda
County of Santa Cruz Emergency Response Fees and Taxes, Measure B (November 2008) Santa Cruz Defeatedd
City of Santa Monica Telecommunications Tax, Measure SM (November 2008) Los Angeles Approveda
City of Seaside Utility Tax Repeal, Measure E (November 2008) Monterey Defeatedd
Sebastopol Utility User Tax, Measure M (November 2008) Sonoma Approveda
Stockton Utility User Tax, Measure U (November 2008) San Joaquin Approveda
City of Watsonville Telephone Tax, Measure C (November 2008) Santa Cruz Defeatedd

June 3

See also June 3, 2008 ballot measures in California
Measure County Outcome
Alameda County Measure F (2008) Alameda Approveda
City of Covina Utility Tax, Measure C (June 2008) Los Angeles Approveda
City of Oakland Utility Users Tax, Measure J (June 2008) Alameda Approveda
City of Torrance Utility Users Tax, Measure T (June 2008) Los Angeles Approveda
City of Winters Utility Users Tax, Measure T (June 2008) Yolo Approveda
City of McFarland Utility Users Tax, Measure E (June 2008) Kern Defeatedd

April 8

Measure County Outcome
Culver City Utility Users Tax, Measure W (April 2008) Los Angeles Approveda
Malibu Utility Users Tax, Measure D (April 2008) Los Angeles Approveda
Sierra Madre Utility Users Tax, Measures U and UA (April 2008) Los Angeles Approveda

February 5

See also February 5, 2008 ballot measures in California
Measure County Outcome
City of Richmond, Measure B Contra Costa Approveda
City of Arcata, Measure A Humboldt Approveda
City of Huntington Park, Measure B Los Angeles Approveda
City of Pasadena, Measure D Los Angeles Approveda
City of Los Angeles, Proposition S Los Angeles Approveda
City of San Bernardino, Measure L San Bernardino Approveda

External links