Chula Vista, California Phone Tax Litigation
UPDATE: On December 12, 2013, an order and judgment granting final approval of the class action settlement was signed and entered by the Honorable Richard E.L. Strauss. To view a copy of the order, click here.
Capretz & Associates along with the San Diego-based law offices of Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield, LLP, filed a class action lawsuit against the City of Chula Vista, California, demanding restitution as a result of continued collection of a controversial tax on cell phone calls.
The lawsuit was filed in the San Diego Superior Court on behalf of Chula Vista residents seeking a refund of taxes arising from the City of Chula Vista’s improper collection and administration of a “Utility Users Tax” (UUT) collected on mobile phone use.
April 30, 2013 – A San Diego court has preliminarily approved a class action settlement between wireless phone users and the City of Chula Vista that includes $8 million being made available for funding for rebates and refunds of the city’s telephone user’s tax and payment of litigation expenses and attorneys’ fees. The lawsuit, Carla Villa, et al. v. City of Chula Vista, was brought by two Chula Vista residents on behalf of Chula Vista taxpayers and was filed by the San Diego law offices of CaseyGerry and the Newport Beach offices of Capretz & Associates. The City of Chula Vista disagrees with the lawsuit’s claim that certain aspects of the tax are unlawful, but, because the issues are complex and continued litigation would be expensive, the City believes it is in the best interest of its citizens to settle the case.
The settlement makes cash rebates available to Chula Vista wireless phone users who paid taxes on their wireless phone bills from April 2010 through April 2013. And, once the court has finally approved the settlement, the tax rate will be reduced from 5% to 4.75%. The City will also clarify how its telephone users tax ordinance applies to wireless phone services.
Additional information about who is qualified to receive refunds and the claims process are available at www.ChulaVistaCellPhoneTaxSettlement.com.
All Chula Vista residents should receive claim forms in the mail soon. Anyone with a wireless phone service billing address in Chula Vista may be eligible to make a claim. Claim forms will also be available online and can be submitted electronically at: www.ChulaVistaCellPhoneTaxSettlement.com.
A valid claim must be filed to get payment. Eligible claimants may receive a larger cash payment by including copies of wireless phone bills or other documents. This is fully explained in the claim form and at the website. Claims must be filed no later than July 31, 2013.
Eligible taxpayers can choose one of three refund options:
- Receive flat $35 rebate. Eligible taxpayers only need to fill out, sign and submit the claim form to receive $35 cash payment.
- Receive $50 for each year of Telephone User’s Tax (“TUT”) paid — maximum three years, $150, over three yearly time periods: April 2010-2011, April 2011-2012, and April 2012-2013. Eligible taxpayers need to complete the claim form and submit one of the following as instructed on the claim form: For each yearly time period, submit a copy of a wireless phone service bill, or a copy of a wireless telephone plan, or a copy of a cancelled check showing payment of the wireless phone service plan.
- Receive an estimated full refund for the tax paid from April 2010 – April 2013. Eligible taxpayers need to complete the claim form and submit two wireless phone service bills or one bill and one other proof of payment for the period claimed as instructed on the claim.
For information, claim forms and detailed instructions on how to make a claim, go to www.ChulaVistaCellPhoneTaxSettlement.com or call (1-888-270-0735). Additional help is available at www.caseygerry.com, www.capretz.com, and www.chulavistaca.gov.
Additionally, a series of informational meetings about how eligible Chula Vista residents can collect a tax rebate have been scheduled. The meetings will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. on three separate Mondays — May 20, June 17 and July 14 — at the Chula Vista Civic Library, Civic Center Branch Auditorium, 365 F St.
The meetings will explain specifically how citizens can apply for and receive the cash refunds.
English- and Spanish-speaking counsel and representatives will be on hand to assist in answering questions and filling out claim forms.
Media inquiries should be directed to Jeremy Robinson at CaseyGerry (619.238.1811) and James T. Capretz at Capretz & Associates (949.724.3000) on behalf of the class, and Anne Steinberger, Marketing and Communications Manager, Office of Communications, City of Chula Vista (619.409.5446) on behalf of the City of Chula Vista.
Click here for a .pdf version of the above information regarding the Settlement.
Click here to view a copy of the Complaint.