Alabama Residents Will Get Stuck with Higher Utility Bills Due to Biden Corporate Tax Rate Hike

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Posted by John Kartch and Michael Mirsky on Tuesday, May 25th, 2021, 10:50 AM PERMALINK

If Biden and the Democrats enact a corporate income tax rate increase, they will have to explain why they just increased your utility bills

If President Biden and congressional Democrats hike the corporate income tax rate, Alabama households and businesses will get stuck with higher utility bills as the country tries to recover from the pandemic.

Democrats plan to impose a corporate income tax rate increase to 28%, even higher than communist China's 25%. This does not even include state corporate income taxes, which average 4 - 5% nationwide.

Customers bear the cost of corporate income taxes imposed on utility companies. Corporate income tax cuts drive utility rates down, corporate income tax hikes drive utility rates up. 

Electric, gas, and water companies must get their billing rates approved by the respective state utility commissions. When the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act cut the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21%, utility companies worked with state officials to pass along the tax savings to customers, including at least two Alabama utilities.

The savings typically come in the form of a rate reduction, a bill credit, or a reduction to an existing or planned rate increase. 

According to a report published in the trade publication Utility Dive, customers nationwide were to receive a $90 billion utility benefit from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:

Estimates derived from 2017 annual SEC 10-K filings indicate that the 14-percentage-point reduction in the corporate tax rate enacted under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) resulted in investor-owned utilities establishing significant regulatory liability balances, totaling approximately $90 billion to be refunded back to customers.

Americans for Tax Reform has compiled a 90-second nationwide utility savings video from local news reports which may be viewed here.

If Democrats now impose a corporate income tax rate increase, they will have to reckon with local news coverage noting utility bills are going up. A vote for a corporate income tax hike is a vote for higher utility bills as households try to recover from the pandemic.

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Impact: Working with the Alabama Public Service Commission, Alabama Power and Alagasco (Spire Inc.) passed along tax savings to their customers. 

Alabama Power: As noted in this May 1, 2018 AL.com excerpt

Alabama Power Company customers will see a reduction in their bills because of the federal income tax cut approved by Congress last year, the Public Service Commission announced at its monthly meeting today.

The reduction in 2018 will be for $257 million, about a 9 percent cut, the PSC said.

The cut requires no action by the PSC, which regulates Alabama Power.

The reduction takes effect in July and continues through December.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law in December, reduced the federal corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent effective Jan. 1, 2018.

The three commissioners, all Republicans, said it was good to see consumers benefit from the tax cuts promoted and signed into law by President Trump.

"This is a great day for Alabama consumers and taxpayers," Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said.

The commission approved two requests from Alabama Power related to the income tax cut.

One would allow the company to apply up to $30 million of excess federal deferred income taxes this year to Energy Cost Recovery, a factor in rate-setting.

The other request from Alabama Power was to make several changes to the PSC's method of setting rates, called Rate Stabilization and Equalization, or RSE. The PSC said the changes would enable Alabama Power "to mitigate the credit quality impacts" resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and preserve rate stability for customers. The changes would allow Alabama Power to increase the equity share of its capital investment, the PSC said.

In conjunction with that second request, Alabama Power committed to no increases in its base rates through 2020 and to credit customers $50 million next year, the PSC said.

Alagasco (Spire Inc.): As noted in this February 2, 2018 AL.com excerpt

Spire is giving relief to its Alabama customers in the form of rate decreases as a result of the utility being a beneficiary of the Trump tax plan.

Residential customers in Mobile can expect a 4 percent rate decrease while those in Spire's Central Alabama territory, which covers Montgomery and Birmingham, can expect a 3 percent rate decrease, Spire spokeswoman Jenny Gobble told AL.com Friday. The two territories operate under different tariffs and rate structures, which explains the different rate decreases.

Conversely, if Biden and Democrats raise the corporate tax rate, they will add to the burden faced by working families. And any small businesses operate on tight margins and can't afford higher heating, cooling, gas, and refrigeration costs.

President Biden should withdraw his tax increases.

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