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Prepaid wireless communications seller

Beginning June 1, 2021, Columbia County is imposing a local surcharge rate of $.30 on wireless communications services. For more information, see WCS-21-1, Columbia County Imposes Wireless Communications Surcharge Rate Effective June 1, 2021.

If you are a prepaid wireless communications seller, you must collect the prepaid wireless communications surcharge and file a quarterly return with the Tax Department. You must separately state the surcharge and identify it as the public safety communications surcharge on any receipt or other statement of the price that you issue to your customers. If space limitations on a sales slip, invoice, receipt, or other statement of the price receipt do not allow for a seller to identify the surcharge as the public safety communications surcharge, then, in those limited circumstances, it would be sufficient for the seller to use PSCS as an alternative to identify the surcharge. See the sections below for more information.


The surcharge is imposed on each retail sale of prepaid wireless services that occurs in New York State, regardless of whether any tangible personal property is sold. The sale occurs in New York State if it takes place at a seller’s business location in this state, or is made to a purchaser located in this state. Retail sales of prepaid wireless services are subject to both the state surcharge and a local surcharge, unless the locality where the sale occurred has not enacted a local surcharge. For surcharge rate information, see PUB-452, Wireless Communications Surcharge Rates on Prepaid Wireless Communications Services.

Prepaid wireless communications seller is a person making a retail sale of prepaid wireless communications service.

Prepaid wireless communications service is the right to use a commercial mobile radio service, whether or not sold with other property or services, that must be paid for in advance and is sold for use over a specified period of time or in predetermined units or dollars that decline with use in a known amount, whether or not that right is represented by or includes the transfer to the purchaser of an item of tangible personal property.

 Prepaid wireless communications services include:

  • mobile phones or mobile phone cards (including refill or recharge authorization codes) that are preloaded with a set dollar amount or number of minutes,
  • reloads of mobile phones or mobile phone cards with additional minutes, and
  • cards, PINs, or codes that give access to only texting services.

Any prepaid phone card that can be used on a mobile phone to make or receive calls is a prepaid wireless communications service. For example, long distance or international calling cards that can be used on both landlines and mobile phones are subject to the surcharge.

The prepaid wireless surcharge does not apply to purchases made by the following:

  • Lifeline consumers;
  • any nonprofit/casualty insurance company organized under Insurance Law § 6703;
  • the state of New York, its agencies, instrumentalities, and political subdivisions;
  • the United States, its agencies, instrumentalities, and political subdivisions; and
  • the United Nations.

As a prepaid wireless seller, you are allowed to retain a percentage of collections as an administrative fee. The fee is computed based on your total collections of the surcharge for the reporting period at the following rates:

 Administrative fees
Jurisdiction Rate
New York State 1.749% of total state surcharge collected
Local (counties and New York City) 3% of total local surcharge collected

Note: If you do not timely file and fully pay the surcharges due with your return, you are not entitled to retain the administrative fee.


You must Web File Form WCS-2-PRE, Prepaid Wireless Communications Surcharge Return, every quarter even if no surcharge is due. Quarterly reporting periods are:

  • March 1 through May 31
  • June 1 through August 31
  • September 1 through November 30
  • December 1 through February 28 (February 29 if leap year)


Due date

Your return is due the 20th day of the month following the close of the reporting period. If the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the return is due on the next business day.