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Frontier Bills Stoke Controversy Between Mille Lacs County Residents and Ojibwe Native Americans

Phillip Dampier April 19, 2017 Consumer News, Frontier, Public Policy & Gov't 1 Comment

A suspicious line item labeled “Mille Lacs Indian Res Tel Lcl Sales Tax” amounting to $0.21 that appeared on the Wahkon City Council’s latest Frontier phone bill was all it took to become a significant topic at the April 10 city council meeting.

City officials and some residents in and around the Mille Lacs County, Minn. were concerned Frontier appeared to be taxing their phone bills and giving the proceeds to a Native American tribe’s nearby reservation that surrounds the southern part of Mille Lacs Lake.

“I can appreciate that some citizens are concerned about what they’re paying. We don’t know anything, it might be a mistake,” said county administrator Pat Oman. “The county is certainly taking this seriously and wants an answer.”

Reviewing prior bills, city clerk Karrie Roeschlein told the council the “new tax” replaced one previously labeled as “Wahkon Telecom Local Sales Tax.” That tax presumably covered the county’s new 0.5% “transit sales and use tax” which took effect Jan. 1, 2017, but nobody, including Frontier Communications, appears to know for sure.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue has no idea what Frontier is doing either, telling the Mille Lacs Messenger, “the wording provided from the billing statement (Mille Lacs Indian Res Tel Lcl Sales Tax) does not correspond to any state or local tax administered by the department.”

County officials and residents are opposed to any part of their Frontier bill being paid to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, which maintain the Mille Lacs Indian Reservation. The county paid the $0.21, under protest.

The conflict may lie with Frontier’s billing department, not the Band, however. In a written statement to the newspaper, Band officials made it clear they are not imposing any tax or collecting any revenue received from it. The money stops at Frontier’s bank account:

“The Band is not imposing additional sales tax, or any tax for that matter, on Frontier Communications’ customer accounts, nor is the Band receiving sales tax revenue related to those activities. The recent reporting of an assessment by the Band is the result of an internal bill coding issue by Frontier Communications. We understand the company is taking the appropriate steps to rectify the situation. The Band is not aware of any changes to the rules regarding sales taxes on fee or trust lands.”

Unfortunately for both sides, Frontier could not quickly determine exactly what was behind the “new tax” appearing on Frontier customers’ phone bills, but the county’s attorney, Joe Walsh, received an informal answer from Frontier claiming it was probably a mistake.

“Frontier believes this is a mis-coding caused by a third-party service provider called Core Logic,” Walsh told the newspaper. “At this time, it appears that this may have been a simple mistake of nomenclature – a misnamed tax. If that changes and there is any indication that your tax dollars are being distributed to the Mille Lacs Band, that will be taken very seriously and an appropriate joint response will be formulated.”

Currently there is 1 comment on this Article:

  1. LG says:

    I’ll bet if you went back to the early 80’s and counted all of the “mistakes” in billing, you would find two things.. One, there are a god-awful lot of them. I’d be surprised if there are less than 100k of them resulting in $10 / year or more. And two, I would be shocked to the core if even one single one of those “mistakes” ever benefited the customer and not the company. I’m certain EVERY single one benefited the cable company and not one of those instances were actually “mistakes”. I’m certain there was a discussion between the legal dept and upper board members to determine risk / reward and whether or not it would even be noticed. There would be an easy way to prevent even one more “mistake” from EVER happening on a cable bill.. forever: For every $1 worth of overcharge = $1Bn fine. There won’t be a single one. It would be truly amazing how perfectly billing would be from then on.
    These dying industries need to be heavily regulated and prices strictly capped according to a national pricing schedule (example: 50Mbps = $15 / month, 100Mbps = $35 etc.). And anything under 50Mbps should NOT be considered “high speed”. ..Don’t even get me going about bandwidth caps!







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