[Request for Decision Concerning the Propriety of Paying Emergency Number Service Fee]

B-215735: Jul 1, 1985

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An authorized certifying officer of the General Services Administration (GSA) requested a decision on the propriety of paying a 9-1-1 emergency number service fee. GAO noted that: (1) the 9-1-1 Emergency Number Act provides that every billed service user is liable for any fee imposed; (2) the local telephone company's responsibility clearly limits the utility's role to a collection agent; and (3) the service fee is a vendee tax imposed by a local government under state law on a class of residents who receive certain emergency services. GAO found that: (1) since the 9-1-1 emergency service fee is a vendee tax, it falls directly on the United States as the user of telephone services; (2) there is a constitutional immunity from a direct vendee tax imposed by a governmental unit to defray the costs of government services it is required to provide; and (3) payment of the 9-1-1 fee would be improper. Accordingly, GSA should continue to withhold the fee portion of the basic rate charges from its payments for telephone services.

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