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California Mobile Telephony Surcharge (MTS)

The California Public Utilities Commission has passed a resolution requiring an 8.51% surcharge on prepaid wireless service (Resolution T-17504) to support several state programs, effective January 1, 2016. The resolution fulfills the requirements of Assembly Bill 1717 “The Prepaid Mobile Telephony Services Surcharge Collection Act” and applies to the services purchased by Lifeline subscribers, but not reimbursements for services provided at no cost to consumers.


This does not affect the free portion of Lifeline service. It would affect pre-paid plans as well as top-up purchases. This includes purchases made at retail stores in California, on-line purchases, purchases made using the IVR or over the phone with Customer Service.

The amount of the California Prepaid MTS Surcharge can vary depending on your location. As an example of the MTS Surcharge, if you were to purchase a $20 top-up after January 1, 2016, and the tax rates in your area were 10%, you would pay $2 in taxes ($20 X 10%) for a total of $22.


Find more information on these fees at the California PUC website

The prepaid MTS surcharge is calculated by the California Board of Equalization (BOE) as follows:

  • Commission Public Purpose Program Surcharges
  • Commission User Fee
  • Emergency Telephone Users (911) Surcharge
  • Local utility user taxes (UUT)

The MTS rate varies by city or Unincorporated County and can be found here:
California BOE Prepaid Mobile Telephony Services Surcharge