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Schumer pushes for foreign call center tax

How many times have you made your way through the telephone maze to a customer service help desk, only to figure out you're talking to somebody on the other side of the world? Now there's a lawmaker who thinks there ought to be a law to change that.

In an effort to slow the outsourcing of American jobs, New York Senator Charles Schumer is proposing a tax on companies that transfer calls with U.S. area codes to foreign call centers. His proposed legislation would tax companies 25 cents for each customer service phone call that is outsourced to a foreign call center. Schumer also wants to make companies inform customers when their calls are being transferred outside the U.S. and to which country.

"This bill will not only serve to maintain call center jobs currently in the United States, but also provide a reason for companies that have already outsourced jobs to bring them back," said Sen. Schumer in a statement.

Under Schumer's proposed bill, companies would also be required to report their total number of customer service calls and the amount rerouted to foreign call centers.

Many American companies place call centers overseas to save costs. India, Indonesia, Ireland, Canada, the Philippines and South Africa are among the countries that U.S. companies use to outsource call centers.

If it were to become law, would Schumer's plan make any difference to you?

About the author

Daryl Paranada is the associate web producer for Marketplace overseeing all daily website content and production, as well as producing multimedia features -- including the popular economic explainer series Whiteboard -- and special projects. Follow him on Twitter @darylparanada.
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In California alone outsourcing has destroyed the job market for US citizens here. A drive around the Silicon Valley feels like you have left the country. US corporations have been abusing the H1B visa program for years, importing workers from India, China, and other parts of the world. They do so to reduce their operating costs, taxes and benefits. These H1B workers are not subject to the same taxes as Americans yet they enjoy all of our services including medical services. Once here these workers bring their families, illegally, into the country using guest visas. The immigration department is overwhelmed and there is no practical way to police the H1B visa program.

I am all for Schumers bill. Furthermore we need to change the corporate tax laws making it more attractive for US companies to keep jobs here on US soil rather than sending them to India and China. Especially hi-tech jobs.

LEB, You are thoroughly misinformed. H-1b workers pay the exact same taxes as American citizens, in fact they pay into medicare and social security but don't get a penny out. So in fact they are bailing out these programs FOR the Americans. There are a few instances of H-1b being abused, but the H-1bs of the 90's created the .com boom and thus a significant portion of California's wealth. Many of these "H-1bs" have gone on to be entrepreneurs providing jobs to thousands of American citizens. Get your facts straight before you complain.

I want to provide the Senator and some Marketplace listeners with a copy of The World Is Flat. If we are worried about American jobs, invest in education and innovation. Your neighborhood mall and grocery store is the epitimoy of outsourcing. Practically everything we use has an element of outsourcing. Are we suggesting that global supply chains be taxed?

Bad customer service is a different issue altogher. If you can't understand the person on the other line, log a complaint with the company and use a competitor with better service.

Also keep in mind that these offshore call center employees are supporting their own dreams and families. These jobs are one of the reasons why India's middle class has shot up the income ladder and making them an attractive market for US companies... providing US jobs.

I'd support such a measure.

Isn't it interesting how the free market loving crowd wants to respond to a free market within the U.S. whenever we are short on labor? Price is supposed to go up until the demand attracts supply NATIONALLY. That's how a free market adjusts. How unfair it is to jump outside our national marketplace and go global whenever you can cheat the market and save a buck.

Doubly so for all the older advocates of the new, global marketplace: advocates who enjoyed constant upward wage growth and job opportunity over their careers--or who didn't have to compete with today's tsunami of imports if they were running businesses. What's fair about such hypocritical game changers who have little regard for those generations following them?

As for the opportunities abroad, can't the telemarketing crowd over there get ahead by working their own citizen's telemarketing needs? If they are globalizing and growing their economies there should be plenty of domestic opportunities to employ their phone skills.

First, this is an obvious election year stunt.

Next, do people really want to go back to the "good old days" when technical support was only available M-F from 9 to 5 and cost $2 a minute?

I love how people consider themselves to be "oh so international and sophisticated" when it comes to international travel, but then turn into "pull up the drawbridge" reactionaries when it comes to actually doing business with someone outside the U.S.

Let's do this; how about we give people an option. When they call the call center they'll get this message:

"For assistance from someone in the U.S. at a cost of $2 minute press (1). Note that this option is only available from 9 to 5 during weekdays. For free 24 hour help, dial 2. Please note that your call may be answered by someone in another country"

We'll see how many people press (1).

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