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

Submitted by mmirsky on Thursday, June 10th, 2021, 11,50 AM

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

If President Biden and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand hike the corporate income tax rate, New York 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 ten New York 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 New York Public Service Commission, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. (electric and gas), Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. (steam), New York State Electric and Gas Corporation, Rochester Gas and Electric Corporation, Natural Fuel Gas Distribution Company,  Corning Natural Gas Corporation, Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation, New York American Water, Suez Water New York and National Grid passed along tax savings to their customers.

Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. (electric and gas): As noted in this January 16, 2020 New York Public Service Commission document:

In 2017, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (2017 Tax Act), which, among other things, lowered the highest corporate federal income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and eliminated bonus depreciation. Consequently, the Commission issued an order directing New York utilities to preserve for the benefit of ratepayers the net savings resulting from the 2017 Tax Act through deferral accounting until all net benefits are reflected in rates.

In its initial tariff filings in January 2019, Con Edison proposed revenue requirements that reflected the reduction in the tax rate and the termination of bonus depreciation. The Company proposed to amortize deferred net benefits realized from the tax reforms in 2018 over a three-year period starting January 2020 for electric and a two-year period for gas as there are two years remaining for the three-year amortization of the benefit that started in January 2019. Con Edison also proposed to refund the protected asset related excess deferred federal income taxes (EDFIT) benefits to customers over the average remaining life of the underlying plant assets, and the unprotected EDFIT balances over a five year period.

Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. (steam): As noted in this October 18, 2018 Energywatch excerpt

Effective as of October 1, 2018, Con Ed steam rates will include a tax sur-credit as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 impact.  Joining over 100 documented utilities across the country thus far issuing credits for electric, gas, steam, and/or water service, tax sur-credits for Con Ed steam rates range from about $1.02 to $2.25 per Mlb. 

New York State Electric and Gas Corporation: As noted in this May 14, 2018 AVANGRID document:

On December 22, 2017, the President signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act modified the federal corporate income tax rate from a maximum 35 percent to a flat 21 percent rate, effective January 1, 2018. This tax rate reduction will result in lower income tax expense going forward on the books of certain rate-regulated companies, including NYSEG and RG&E. Accordingly, on March 15, 2018, the Commission ordered that, within 60 days of the Order, a number of companies, including NYSEG and RG&E, either (1) submit proposed revisions to their stated transmission rates to reflect the change in the federal corporate income tax rate and describe the methodology used for making those revisions, or (2) show cause why they should not be required to do so.

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NYSEG’s current stated wholesale TSC was set by the Commission in Docket ER97-2353 (Opinion 447), using data from a 1997 test year, and later amended in a settlement approved by the Commission in Docket No. EL04-56. In order to reflect the impact of the change in the federal income tax rate, NYSEG changed the federal income tax rate included in the previously approved rate determination from 35% to 21%, as described and supported by the Affidavit of Dr. Dumais. See Attachment A. This results in a reduction of approximately $4.0 million in the NYSEG annual transmission revenue requirement which, in turn, reduces NYSEG’s transmission by $0.2696 per MWh. 

Rochester Gas and Electric Corporation: As noted in this May 14, 2018 AVANGRID document:

On December 22, 2017, the President signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act modified the federal corporate income tax rate from a maximum 35 percent to a flat 21 percent rate, effective January 1, 2018. This tax rate reduction will result in lower income tax expense going forward on the books of certain rate-regulated companies, including NYSEG and RG&E. Accordingly, on March 15, 2018, the Commission ordered that, within 60 days of the Order, a number of companies, including NYSEG and RG&E, either (1) submit proposed revisions to their stated transmission rates to reflect the change in the federal corporate income tax rate and describe the methodology used for making those revisions, or (2) show cause why they should not be required to do so.

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RG&E’s current stated wholesale TSC was set by the Commission in Docket OA96-141, using data from a 1995 test year. The rates approved by the Commission in that proceeding remain in effect today. In order to reflect the impact of the change in the federal income tax rate, RG&E changed the federal income tax rate included in the previously approved rate determination from 35% to 21%, as described and supported by the Affidavit of Dr. Dumais. See Attachment A. This results in a reduction of approximately $1.6 million from RG&E’s currently effective annual transmission revenue requirement, which, in turn, reduces RG&E’s transmission rate by $0.2229 per MWh.

Natural Fuel Gas Distribution Company: As noted in this June 15, 2018 New York Public Service Commission document

On June 4, 2018, the Company filed a petition with the Commission regarding the Company’s proposed disposition of net federal income tax savings resulting from the Tax Act and requesting authorization to, among other things, implement a customer refund program (“Customer Refund Program”) to return the net effect of the recent federal income tax rate reduction under the Tax Act, estimated at approximately $7.8 million for 2018 and $10.8 million for 2019, to the Company’s customers as soon as possible.

Corning Natural Gas Corporation: As noted in this September 18, 2018 Star-Gazette excerpt

On August 9, 2018 the New York State Public Service Commission (NYSPSC) Issued an order In Case# 17-M-0815 which Instructed Corning Natural Gas Corporation to begin to pass back the net benefits as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The result will be an average decrease on customer's bills of 2.24% effective 10-1-18 through 9-30-19. 

Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation: As noted in this February 21, 2019 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission document

As described above, Central Hudson has revised its stated transmission rates to reflect the new 21 percent federal corporate income tax rate, which results in rate reductions for customers. Absent a change to Central Hudson’s stated transmission rates, customers would not receive the benefits of the reduced federal corporate income tax rate. We therefore accept Central Hudson’s proposed revisions to its stated transmission rates, effective March 21, 2018, as requested in Central Hudson’s amended filing. Because Central Hudson proposed revisions to its stated rates to reflect the reduced tax rate, we terminate the section 206 proceeding in Docket No. EL18-77-000. Central Hudson is directed to make refunds, within 30 days of the date of this order, of all amounts collected from ratepayers for periods after the requested effective date in excess of the revised rates. Within 30 days of issuing refunds, Central Hudson must submit a refund report showing the amounts refunded to each ratepayer. The refund report must show the principal amounts and interest refunded to each ratepayer and the interest calculations based on 18 C.F.R. § 35.19a of the Commission’s regulations. 

New York American Water: As noted in this December 13, 2018 New York Public Service Commission document:

The New York State Public Service Commission (Commission) today approved $7.2 million in credits and other financial benefits for New York American Water Company, Inc. customers, a decision consistent with the agreement announced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on August 18, 2018 that lowered bills and provided other benefits for the company's 120,000 customers on Long Island. 

“Today’s decisions provide accelerated rate relief to all New York American Water customers and tracks the announcement by Governor Cuomo in August,” said Commission Chair John B. Rhodes. “This is a fair and equitable decision to ensure just and reasonable rates for the company’s customers on Long island.” 

The Commission’s action included approving the allocation and disposition of property tax refunds to customers and accelerating the disposition of customer credits relating to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), net of the revenue adjustment  clause and property tax reconciliation surcharge balance, totaling $6.2 million. In addition, the company will contribute $1.01 million to fund a conservation study and rebate program for the benefit of customers.

Suez Water New York: As noted in this October 2, 2018 lohud. excerpt:

Suez customers in New York will see their monthly water bills decrease over the coming year thanks to a federal tax cut passed in December, company officials announced Monday.

Savings for the average residential customer who uses 4,500 gallons of water every month would range between $16 and $35 per year, the company said.

National Grid: As noted in this March 15, 2018 WRGB Albany excerpt:

The initial proposal called for an 11% increase in prices.

Now, under the new approved plan, National Grid says a typical residential customer will see their electricity bill increase by about 3% in the first year, or close to $2 a month.

A natural gas customer will see a monthly bill increase of less than 2% totaling about $1.

The company says the cuts in the proposed rate hike are due in part to the Trump Administration’s corporate tax cuts.

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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