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

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Posted by John Kartch, Michael Mirsky on Friday, September 3rd, 2021, 12:39 PM 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, Arkansas 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 26.5%, even higher than communist China's 25% and higher than the developed world average of 23.5%. 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 six Arkansas 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 Arkansas Public Service Commission, Entergy Arkansas, Center Point Energy, Black Hills Energy, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Arkansas Oklahoma Gas and Southwestern Power Electric Company passed along tax savings to their customers. 

Entergy Arkansas: As noted in this February 28, 2018 Entergy Arkansas press release excerpt:

Customer bill credits will begin in April so customers will begin to benefit almost immediately and prior to summer when usage is typically higher.

Residential customers will see a savings of an estimated $20 per month for every 1000 kWh consumed from April 2018 to December 2019.

Business customers also will see significant bill reductions, allowing them to reinvest those savings into their business in 2018 as they deem appropriate.

Other effects of the TCJA are being considered in a docket opened by the APSC, and we expect those customer benefits to be reflected in future rate changes.

Center Point Energy: As noted in this August 28, 2018, Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette article excerpt:

CenterPoint Energy, the largest natural gas utility in the state with more than 400,000 customers, has proposed to reduce its rates by $19.2 million beginning in October.

CenterPoint filed the request with the Arkansas Public Service Commission on Friday in response to an order by the commission to reduce rates as a result of the federal tax law change passed in December. Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that reduced the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

If the commission approves the lowered rate, Houston-based CenterPoint's rates would drop 9.5 percent on bills from October to January and 7.3 percent in January. For a customer with a bill of $100, it would fall to $90.50 under the first scenario and to $92.70 under the second scenario.

"Tax reform is a win for customers and reduced costs are being returned to them through various mechanisms or rate proceedings within each of our operating jurisdictions," said Alicia Dixon, CenterPoint's spokesman.

Black Hills Energy: As noted on the Black Hills Energy website:

Arkansas customers served by Black Hills Energy are seeing the benefits of the federal corporate tax rate reduction from 35 percent to 21 percent. These benefits first appeared on customers’ October 2018 bills. A typical residential customer will receive a monthly refund of about $4.64 per month ending in the middle of May 2019.

The total amount of cost-savings related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for Arkansas customers is $8.2 million.

Oklahoma Gas & Electric: As noted in this Oklahoma Gas & Electric press release

OG&E today announced that its average Arkansas residential customer will see approximately $113 in savings on upcoming electric bills.

In October, customers will see a credit of approximately $57 on their electric bill. Then, beginning in November, customers will see a credit of approximately $4 per month through the end of 2019. The savings are made possible by the reduction in corporate tax rates approved by Congress and signed by President Trump in December 2017.

“We’re pleased to pass on to our customers the benefits of tax savings that resulted from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” said OG&E spokesman Brian Alford.

The credit will be noted on October bills as “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Credit.”

Arkansas Oklahoma Gas: As noted in this October 9, 2018 Arkansas Public Service Commission document

The purpose of this rider is to provide customers with certain tax benefits associated with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA). The TCJA reduces the maximum corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21% beginning January 1, 2018. TA flows back to customers the net impact of the lower corporate income tax rate that includes annual tax savings, as well as changes to Accumulated Deferred Income Tax (ADIT) amounts. An adjustment for WNA impact for January 2018 through April 2018 will be included in the 2018 TA Rates.

TA applies to all natural gas service provided under any rate schedule, including rates under Special Contracts, subject to the jurisdiction of the Arkansas Public Service Commission. 

Monthly credits shall appear as a line item on the bill titled, “Tax Cuts & Jobs Act Credit.” 

Beginning with the November 2018 billing month through the December 2018 billing month, all retail base rates will be decreased by the amounts listed in Attachment A. The rates include carrying charges, calculated using the pre-tax rate of return approved in the Company’s most recent rate case in Docket No. 13-078-U, for the over collection in tax expense from January 1, 2018 until the date this rider became effective.

Southwestern Power Electric Company: As noted in this February 5, 2020 Arkansas Public Service Commission document:

On January 31, 2020, Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) filed with the Arkansas Public Service Commission (Commission) proposed revisions to Rate Schedule 49, Federal Tax Cut Adjustment Rider (FTCA Rider) and the Supplemental Direct Testimony and Exhibits of Shawnna G. Jones. 

Ms. Jones testifies that the total true-up amount due to Arkansas retail customers is an additional refund of $s,866,955 with carrying charges in the true up resulting in an additional refund of $321,726. She requests that the Commission approve Rider FTCA to be in effect for the March 2020 billing month that begins on February 28, 2020. Other than the true-up revisions to Rider FTCA, Ms. Jones testifies that SWEPCO proposes additional language to Rider FTCA that any residual amounts, after the refund is applied in March 2020, will be included in SWEPCO's next Energy Cost Recovery Rider filing with interest. Ms. Jones testifies that the bill impact to an average Residential customer using 934 kWh per month is a credit of $22.91 or a 23.28 percent decrease to total monthly bill. She states that SWEPCO will reflect the true-up as a separate line item on the customer bills labeled "Tax Cuts & Jobs Credit." Jones Supplemental Direct at 6-9.

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On the basis of the evidence currently before the Commission, namely, the testimony and exhibits filed herein by SWEPCO and Staff, the Commission approves SWEPCO's Rate Schedule No. 49 filed on January 31, 2020, as Supplemental Direct Exhibit SGJ-2, to become effective for bills rendered on or after February 28, 2020, and remain in effect until March 31, 2020.

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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