Emergency Telephone Users Surcharge and Prepaid 911 Surcharge for Telecommunication Service Suppliers – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This FAQ section is for telecommunication service suppliers (including wireless service suppliers) and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers registered and reporting to the CDTFA under the Emergency Telephone Users Surcharge Program. If you are registered for a Prepaid Mobile Telephony Services Surcharge account, visit the Prepaid Mobile Telephony Services Surcharge Industry Guide.

The term service suppliers will be used throughout the program information and includes:

  • telecommunication service providers/carriers,
  • telephone corporations,
  • VoIP providers,
  • prepaid mobile telephony service providers,
  • service suppliers and
  • direct sellers.
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About the Surcharge

The emergency telephone users surcharge, also known as the 9-1-1 surcharge, is a surcharge generally collected on a customer's monthly telephone bill on charges for certain intrastate telecommunication services that the customer (service user) received from a service supplier. The 911 surcharge funds collected help make emergency telephone service available to persons in this state by supporting the costs of installing, administering and supplying communication services for the "9-1-1" emergency telephone number system.

The prepaid MTS surcharge consists of multiple components, and each component funds a different purpose. Generally, the prepaid MTS surcharge and applicable local charges are collected from purchasers on all sales of prepaid MTS at the time of the retail transaction. The prepaid 911 surcharge is a component of the prepaid MTS surcharge, and it must be remitted to the CDTFA by a direct seller on the emergency telephone users surcharge return. Like the 911 surcharge, the prepaid 911 surcharge funds collected help make emergency telephone service available to persons in this state by supporting the costs of installing, administering and supplying communication services for the "9-1-1" emergency telephone number system.

The Office of Emergency Services decides how funds are distributed to local agencies and service suppliers.

Service users owe the surcharge. It is imposed upon amounts paid by every person in the state for intrastate (origin and destination are within California) telephone communication services or intrastate Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service that has access to the “9-1-1” emergency system. Generally, the surcharge is collected by service suppliers or VoIP service providers and paid to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA). Service suppliers must collect the surcharge amount from service users, generally on the monthly service billings, and pay it to the state.

The prepaid 911 surcharge is collected as part of the prepaid MTS surcharge. In general, consumers or purchasers of prepaid MTS owe the surcharge. It is imposed on the retail sale of prepaid MTS sold in this state. Service suppliers must collect the prepaid MTS surcharge and local charge(s) from consumers and remit the prepaid 911 surcharge portion to CDTFA.

Prepaid MTS includes but is not limited to, prepaid wireless minutes or plans, prepaid wireless cards or refill/top-off cards and/or any product or service, including a cell phone, when sold with prepaid services for a single non-itemized price, unless only a minimal amount of prepaid MTS is transferred. A minimal amount of prepaid MTS is $5 or less, or 10 minutes or less.

The prepaid 911 surcharge is collected as part of the prepaid MTS surcharge. The prepaid MTS surcharge applies to all retail sales of prepaid MTS.

Registration

Note: Direct sellers are required to register, report and remit under the emergency telephone users surcharge program, if not currently registered.

No, registration with the CDTFA covers both surcharges. You do not need to register twice.

No, registration with the CDTFA covers both surcharges. You do not need to register again.

Go to our online registration system, and select "Register a business activity with CDTFA." Select item number 14, Service supplier or direct seller of telephone, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or prepaid wireless services.The system is convenient, secure, and available 24 hours a day. Visit our "Information Needed to Get Started" webpage for help to complete your application.

You may also register in person at one of our office locations by use of a kiosk or forms are available upon request. If you have questions, please contact our Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115 TTY: 711, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Pacific time, excluding state holidays.

A surcharge registrant may also need a Seller's Permit from the CDTFA. If you plan to provide telecommunication services within California, you must first register with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). For information regarding CPUC requirements, visit their website, www.cpuc.ca.gov, or call 1-415-703-2782.

Visit www.calgold.ca.gov for help with permit and licensing requirements for other state, federal, and local authorities (for example, you may need to be registered with the Franchise Tax Board or the Employment Development Department.

Visit the California's Tax Service Center for additional tax information.

You may also want to consult with a tax professional for assistance about other agency requirements.

Surcharge registrants should notify the CDTFA of any change of business ownership, email address, mailing address, location address, phone number or fax number to ensure that returns and information about the surcharge are received timely. Use form CDTFA-345-SP, Notice of Business Change, Property and Special Taxes to notify the CDTFA of changes.

You may also contact the CDTFA Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115 (TTY: 711) and select the option for "Special Taxes and Fees" or send a message through our website through Email Your Tax Questions.

Current and historical emergency telephone users surcharge and prepaid 911 surcharge rates. It is important to keep your account current with the CDTFA as we will notify you if rates change. For more information on the prepaid mobile telephony services surcharge rate and local charge(s).

  • The 911 emergency telephone users surcharge rate as determined by the Office of Emergency Services (OES)

The prepaid MTS surcharge rate consists of:

  • The prepaid 911 surcharge rate as determined by the Office of Emergency Services (OES), and
  • The California Public Utilities (CPUC) reimbursement fee and telecommunications universal services surcharges.

Additionally, retail sales of prepaid mobile telephony services may be subject to:

  • Local charges imposed by a city, county or other local jurisdiction including utility user taxes (UUT) and/or local 911 emergency telephone service access charges.

Service suppliers are required to pay the prepaid 911 surcharge portion of the prepaid MTS surcharge to the CDTFA, the CPUC surcharge portion of the prepaid MTS surcharge to the CPUC and the local charges to the corresponding local jurisdiction.

If you make sales of prepaid MTS to customers in person at a retail location, you should generally charge and collect the correct prepaid MTS surcharge rate and the local charge(s) rate of the city and/or county where your business is located.
If you make sales somewhere other than at a retail location in this state, the sale of prepaid MTS is deemed to occur in California and the prepaid MTS surcharge applies under any of the following circumstances:

  1. The prepaid MTS is shipped to, or picked up by, your customer at a California location,
  2. Your records show that the customer's address is located in California,
  3. Your customer provides you an address in California during the sales transaction (for example, a billing address), or
  4. The mobile telephone number is associated with a location in California.

For purposes of determining the prepaid MTS surcharge rate to charge, when you sell prepaid MTS to a purchaser somewhere other than at a retail location in this state, you should charge the prepaid MTS surcharge rate and local charge (s) rate applicable to the above known California location or address of the purchaser, in the order listed above.

No. Do not include the surcharge amount in your sales or use tax calculation.

Yes, service suppliers of prepaid mobile telephony services are required to separately state or provide electronically the combined amount of the prepaid MTS surcharge and local charges on a receipt or invoice provided to the purchaser.

  • Charges for interstate (origin and/or destination are outside of California) telephone communications.
  • Charges imposed on certain types of entities may be exempt from the surcharge. [See Revenue and Taxation Code (RTC) § 41027, 41046]*
    • Nonprofit hospitals,
    • Nonprofit education organizations,
    • Public agencies, and
    • Insurance companies (that pay the California gross premium insurance tax).
  • Charges for intrastate telephone communication services and VoIP service that are exempt from the federal communication services tax pursuant to Section 4253 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 [RTC § 41046].
  • Public purpose fund charges including: Access Recovery Charge; Universal Service Fund Charge (USF); Universal Lifeline Telephone Service (ULTS); California High-Cost Fund-A and Fund-B (CHCF-A & CHCF-B); California Teleconnect Fund (CTF); California Relay Service and Communications Devices Fund (CA Relay/Comm), also known as the Deaf and Disabled Telecommunication Program (DDTP); California Advanced Service Fund (CASF).
  • Charges for basic exchange services for lifeline participants.

  • Certain charges for prepaid mobile telephony services for lifeline participants that the lifeline program specifies are exempt from the surcharge.

The emergency telephone users surcharge applies to all charges for intrastate (origin and destination are within California) telephone communication services or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) charges for telecommunication services or VoIP services that utilize the "911" emergency system.

No. The surcharge does not apply when a calling system is utilized that does not access or does not allow access to the "911" emergency system. The emergency telephone user surcharge is imposed only on the intrastate telecommunication services where the user can access the "911" emergency system by utilizing the digits 9-1-1.

Return Filing and Making a Payment

Service suppliers will report the emergency telephone users surcharge and prepaid 911 surcharge on the BOE-501-TE, Emergency Telephone Users Surcharge Return. The surcharge return and/or payments are due on or before the last day of the second month following each reporting period. For example if your reporting period is for the month of January, the return and/or payment are due on March 31st. The BOE-501-TE is due on either a monthly, quarterly, or yearly filing basis. Your filing frequency will be determined by the CDTFA at the time you register.

Returns and/or payments must be postmarked by the due date to be considered timely. If the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or state holiday, returns and/or payments postmarked or received by the next business day will be considered timely.

Service suppliers may contract with a CDTFA-registered billing aggregator (definition found here) to collect some or all of your intrastate telephone communication charges, including VoIP charges, and to pay the emergency telephone users surcharge to the CDTFA. See form BOE-501-TE instructions for details.

Service suppliers selling prepaid MTS (direct sellers) are required to file their return electronically through the CDTFA online filing system. Beginning November 1, 2016, the online filing system is available to anyone filing the Emergency Telephone Users Surcharge Return.

To file your return online, go to the Log In page, enter your Express Login Code (located at the top of your return) and your Account Number, then click on the appropriate reporting period to access the return. You may also log in using your User ID and Password.

If you currently don't have a User ID, you can create one for your account on the Log In page by clicking on the link "Create a User ID" at the bottom of the "Express Login" box. If you are already a Registered User and have other CDTFA accounts, use the "Link An Account" function to add your Emergency Telephone Users Surcharge account to your User ID.

Please note, you must be identified with the CDTFA as the owner, partner, corporate officer, LLC Member, etc., associated with the account to create a User ID. To update your account or if you need assistance with online filing, contact our Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115 (TTY:711) Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Pacific Time, excluding state holidays.

Service suppliers (persons supplying intrastate telephone communication service or VoIP) have the following options for calculation of the interstate portion not subject to the surcharge:

  • Books and records used in course of business.
  • Traffic or call pattern studies of service provided to customers within California.
  • FCC VoIP Safe Harbor factor effective on September 1st of previous year. For Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service only.

After calculating your interstate charges, the remaining charges represent the intrastate portion subject to the emergency telephone users surcharge.

When filing online, you are able to file and pay the surcharges due in one transaction.

Other payment options are available including: check, money order, credit card, or Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT). Please note that a service fee of 2.3% of the transaction amount will be charged by the credit card processing vendor.

Emergency telephone users surcharge registrants with a total estimated average monthly payment of $20,000 or more are required to pay by EFT.

Records must be retained for at least four years from the time the surcharge is due unless the CDTFA authorizes you in writing to destroy them sooner. For additional information regarding record retention, please view Regulation 2431.

If you have overpaid a surcharge directly to the CDTFA, you may file a refund claim by using form CDTFA-101, Claim for Refund or Credit or by filing an amended return(s) stating the specific reason(s) for the overpayment. Claims for refund must be in writing and should specify the period for which you are making the claim and the amount of the refund.

Mail claims to:

California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
Special Taxes and Fees
Appeals and Data Analysis Branch (MIC: 33)
P.O. Box 942879
Sacramento, CA 94279-0033

Whichever of the following dates occurs last is your filing deadline:

  • Three years after the due date of the return on which you overpaid the surcharge
  • Six months after you overpaid the surcharge
  • Six months after the date a determination (billing) became final
  • Three years after the CDTFA collected an involuntary payment, such as from a levy or lien

Be sure to file your claim for refund by the applicable deadline. If you don't file timely, the CDTFA cannot consider your claim, even if you overpaid the surcharge. Additional refund details are on the BOE's website. If you have further questions about your refund claim, contact our Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115.