New state tax on cellphone service to fund 911 call centers

Prepaid cellphone service just got a little bit more expensive in Missouri. A new tax on the service that took effect Tuesday will help fund 911 call centers across the state, the Associated Press reports.

The new Missouri law imposes a 3 percent sales tax on the amount of prepaid wireless phone service over $15. It is one of many state laws that went into effect at the start of the new year.

Missouri is following suit with most of the rest of the country in charging a tax to fund 911 centers.

A 2017 report from the Missouri Department of Public Safety found that the state “has a disjointed and inefficient system” for handling 911 calls. It also found that more than half of the call centers in the state could not provide emergency medical assistance over the phone until after first responders had arrived, a fact the report called “abysmal.”

Prepaid plans account for about 20 percent of wireless plans nationwide, according to Scott Mackey, a telecom industry consultant.

The new tax could affect thousands of retailers across the state, ranging from department stores to liquor stores, according to David Overfelt, president of the Missouri Retailers Association.

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