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Sprint-Nextel sued for NY taxes

New York's attorney general is suing wireless carrier Sprint for allegedly failing to pay sales taxes for the past seven years. Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is suing Sprint-Nextel Corp., claiming it under-collected and underpaid $100 million in sales taxes to keep prices down.

The tax suit, the first filed under the state's False Claims Act, could require the company to pay triple the amount it is accused of underpaying, or $300 million. Schneiderman says Sprint was informed and has not changed its practice, while competitors Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and MetroPCS pay the tax.

Since 2002, New York tax law has required mobile phone companies to collect and pay sales taxes on the full amount of their monthly access fees for calling plans. Schneiderman says Sprint since 2005 underpaid the tax and submitted false records.

The AG's office furnished some numbers: rough estimates of what some counties could have been entitled to, had taxes been properly collected.

 For example:

Schoharie County:  $59,000

Albany County: $535,000

Westchester County:  $1,300,000

and

New York City:   $28,613,000

In a response to the Associated Press,Sprint says the AG's complaint is "without merit" and it paid all taxes it believes its customers owe. The company then issued a statement, denying any wrongdoing alleged in the attorney general's lawsuit.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.