Kentucky 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 Monday, May 24th, 2021, 11:35 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, Kentucky 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 seven Kentucky 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 The Kentucky Public Service Commission, Atmos Energy, Duke Energy Kentucky, Inc., Kentucky Power Co., Delta Natural Gas, Kentucky-American Water Co., Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas and Electric Company passed along tax savings to their customers.

Duke Energy Kentucky, Inc.: As noted in this March 5, 2019 Duke Energy news release

Duke Energy customers will see $110.7 million in energy bill savings as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the company reports.

That money is spread between Duke’s Ohio and Kentucky customers. Electric customers will benefit most from this, with Ohio customers gaining $46 million and Kentucky customers $16.5 million in annual savings. Where natural gas is concerned, Ohio and Kentucky customers will each gain $3 million in savings, though another $37 million is under consideration in Ohio and another $5.2 million is under review by regulators in Kentucky.

In a single year, Duke said that this could gain individual households up to $70 for natural gas and $40 for electric in Ohio, while Kentucky customers could see up to $51 for natural gas annually and $55 for electric.

Kentucky Power Co.: As noted in this June 28, 2018 The Lane Report excerpt:

In a pair of orders issued today, the PSC approved changes that will have the net effect of reducing an average monthly residential bill by $5.90 for the remainder of 2018. The rates approved today take effect July 1 and will remain in place at least through 2020; Kentucky Power has agreed not to seek an adjustment to base rates to take effect prior to January 2021.

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The January base rate order addressed the immediate impact of the corporate income tax reduction – a cut from 35 percent to 21 percent – that took effect at the start of this year. The remaining portion, most of it tied to deferred federal tax liabilities, was dealt with through a complaint filed by the Kentucky Industrial Utility Customers, Inc. (KIUC), an organization representing large industrial power users.

Atmos Energy: As noted in this May 4, 2018 The Lane Report excerpt

The Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) has reduced the annual revenue of Atmos Energy, thereby lowering the average monthly bill for residential customers.

In an order issued today, the PSC reset rates that were established on an interim basis in March to reflect reduced federal corporate income tax rates that took effect at the first of the year.

The reduction in the monthly residential bill includes a reduction to zero of a $2.97 surcharge assessed to pay for an accelerated program to replace aging and potentially hazardous pipes in the Atmos distribution system. That surcharge was in addition to the interim $16.52 base monthly service charge.

The base monthly service charge will return to $17.50, which is the amount it was prior to the interim rates taking effect. The delivery charge for gas will rise from the interim $1.45 per 1,000 cubic feet to $1.73 per 1,000 cubic feet. A typical Atmos residential customer uses an average of 5,300 cubic feet per month.

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Atmos filed a rate increase request in September 2017, seeking an additional $10.4 million in annual revenue from gas distribution operations, an increase of about 6.1 percent. Following the passage of federal corporate income tax reductions, Atmos revised the requested increase to about $1.76 million.

Delta Natural Gas: As noted in this September 21, 2018 WYMT Mountain News excerpt

The Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) ordered Delta to give its customers monthly credit to reflect reduced federal corporate income tax rates.

The credit will come in two phases. In the first phase, the average residential customer using 5,000 cubic feet a month will get a monthly credit of $9.59. The PSC says this is a decrease of about 21 percent of the base rate costs. This first phase begins in October 2018 and ends in March 2019.

The second phase of monthly credit begins in April 2019. The average residential customer will then get a monthly credit of $3.84, about 8.5 percent of the base rate costs. This phase will continue until the next rate adjustment or federal tax laws change.

Kentucky-American Water Co.: As noted in this August 30, 2018 Kentucky Public Service Commission document

On August 20, 2018, Kentucky-American filed a revised schedule of rates reflecting the amounts recorded as a deferred liability for the lower tax expense under the TCJA for the period of January 1, 2018, through July 31 , 2018, and an estimated August 2018 reserve. Kentucky-American proposes that the reduction in its revenue requirements attributable to the lower tax expense under the TCJA be returned to customers via a reduction in rates. The proposed rate reduction is based upon only the FIT rate reduction , while the rate impact of the TCJA on Kentucky-American's ADIT will continue to accrue as a deferred liability and will be addressed later in this proceeding, or in Kentucky-American's next base rate case. The proposed rate reduction returns to customers over the next ten months the deferred FIT liability for the eight months of January through August 2018, along with an additional ten months' worth of annual FIT savings over that same period based on authorized revenues from the last rate case.

Kentucky Utilities: As noted in this March 20, 2018 Kentucky Public Service Commission document

The TCJA Surcredit will be applied for services rendered on and after April 1, 2018, through April 30, 2019. The parties do not anticipate the TCJA Surcredit continuing after that date because KU/LG&E plan to file for a change in their base rates - which will take into account the changes from the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, among other potential factors - effective May 1, 2019, either as approved by the Commission or placed in effect by KU/LG&E subject to refund based on the Commission's final orders in the anticipated rate cases. 

KU/LG&E estimate the benefits of the Offer and Acceptance of Satisfaction for services rendered on and after April 1, 2018, through April 30, 2019, as follows: 

Bill reductions to KU customers in the amount of $91,290,656, with $70, 180,255 taking the form of the TCJA Surcredit for an estimated 4.2 percent reduction to the monthly bill for the average KU residential customer.

Louisville Gas and Electric Company: As noted in this March 20, 2018 Kentucky Public Service Commission document

The TCJA Surcredit will be applied for services rendered on and after April 1, 2018, through April 30, 2019. The parties do not anticipate the TCJA Surcredit continuing after that date because KU/LG&E plan to file for a change in their base rates - which will take into account the changes from the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, among other potential factors - effective May 1, 2019, either as approved by the Commission or placed in effect by KU/LG&E subject to refund based on the Commission's final orders in the anticipated rate cases. 

KU/LG&E estimate the benefits of the Offer and Acceptance of Satisfaction for services rendered on and after April 1, 2018, through April 30, 2019, as follows: 

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Bill reductions to LG&E electric customers in the amount of $68,934,450, with $48,993,021 taking the form of the TCJA Surcredit for an estimated 4.3 percent reduction to the monthly bill for the average LG&E electric residential customer. 

Bill reductions to LG&E's gas customers $16,663,609, with $16,229,321 taking the form of the TCJA Surcredit for an estimated 3 percent reduction to the monthly bill for the average LG&E gas residential customer.

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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