House bill 2408 telecommunications property tax reform
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House Bill 2408: Telecommunications Property Tax Reform. MAAO Presentation. Background. Current Telecommunication Property Tax Statutes Date Back to the 1920s AT&T Breakup Local and long distance services split Local service was further divided by regional monopolies

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House bill 2408 telecommunications property tax reform

House Bill 2408: Telecommunications Property Tax Reform

MAAO Presentation


Background
Background

  • Current Telecommunication Property Tax Statutes Date Back to the 1920s

  • AT&T Breakup

    • Local and long distance services split

    • Local service was further divided by regional monopolies

  • Telecommunication Act of 1996 Introduces Competition to Local Phone Service

  • Technological Revolution

    • Fiber - Internet - Digital Cable - Wireless


Result
Result

  • Convergence:

    • Telephone Companies Engaged in Internet and Cable Television Services

    • Cable TV Companies Providing Telephone and Internet Service

  • Industry Transformed Into An Ultra-competitive, Less Regulated, Multi-billion-dollar Enterprise


Talk about contrast
Talk About Contrast…..

  • Property Tax Statutory Structure Stagnant, Completely Unchanged

    versus

  • Telecommunication Industry’s Rapid and Radical Restructuring


Or put another way
or, put another way

Cities and towns are using a stone-age, Fred Flintstone era Tax Structure…..

….on an Ultra-modern, George Jetson era industry


Telecomm loophole statewide impact
Telecomm Loophole:Statewide Impact


Verizon case study
Verizon Case Study

  • Total Value of Verizon Property: $4.08B (DTE)

  • Total Assessment of Verizon: 1.56B (DOR)

  • Over 60% of Verizon’s Property is Exempt

Taxable

$1.56 B

Exempt

$2.52 B


Impact on remaining taxpayers
Impact on Remaining Taxpayers

  • Telecommunications Exemptions Result in Higher Residential and Business Taxes

  • In Boston, Telecommunications Exemptions Raised:

    • The Business Tax Rate by 2%

    • The Average Single Family Tax Bill by $185


Anatomy of a utility pole on a public way
Anatomy of a Utility Pole on a Public Way

  • Poles owned by electricity providers are taxed, while poles owned by telephone companies are exempt.

  • All wires owned by electricity providers are taxed.

  • Wires owned by telephone and broadband companies are exempt, while telephone partnership wires are taxed.


A new tax or closing a loophole
A New Tax, or Closing a Loophole ?

  • The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition for the term “loophole”:

    a means of escape; especially : an ambiguity or omission in the text through which the intent of a statute, contract, or obligation may be evaded.


Anatomy of a loophole
Anatomy of a Loophole

  • Section 5 of Chapter 59 states that property owned by telecommunications companies is exempt with the exception of the following: “real estate, poles, underground conduits, wires and pipes…”.

  • Section 39 of Chapter 59 directs the DOR to assess “machinery, poles, wires and underground conduits, wires and pipes” nine separate times.

    Why is the property exempt? Because it escaped through a loophole…

  • Section 18 of Chapter 59 tells assessors to whom to assess taxes. Clause 5 of this section states poles, underground conduits and pipes, together with the wires thereon or therein, laid in or erected upon private property…”


House bill 2408
House Bill 2408

  • Removes Exemption for Machinery of Telephone Companies

  • Closes Loophole that Exempts Poles and Wires in Public Ways

  • Results in an Estimated $140M in New Revenue for Cities and Towns


Recap
Recap

  • Modern telecommunication companies exploit archaic property tax statutes to avoid property taxes

  • Telecomm companies reduced their assessments by $1.3 Billion this year

  • Over 60% of Verizon’s property is exempt

  • Telecomm loopholes:

    • reduce revenue to communities by $140 million

    • result in remaining residents and businesses paying more


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