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

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Posted by John Kartch and Michael Mirsky on Friday, September 10th, 2021, 8:00 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, Texas 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 nine Texas 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 Public Utility Commission of Texas, CenterPoint Energy, El Paso Electric Company, Entergy Texas, Oncor Electric Delivery, Quadvest, TXU Energy, Atmos Energy Corp., Southwest Electric Power Company and AEP Texas Inc. passed along tax savings to their customers. 

El Paso Electric Company: As noted in this April 2, 2018 Houston Chronicle article excerpt:

El Paso Electric became the first utility in Texas to pass on the benefits of recently enacted corporate tax cuts to their customers by lowering its rates.

El Paso Electric, which serves more than 418,700 customers in Texas and New Mexico, will distribute the $27 million in savings over a year by cutting the average monthly electric bill by about 4 percent. That translates into just under $4 a month for the utility’s average residential customer using 635 kilowatt hours of electricity a month.

El Paso Electric is one of several utilities across the country that have shared the windfall from the corporate tax cuts — which sliced the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent — with their customers. In Texas, the Public Utility Commission ordered Texas utilities to calculate their savings and pass them on to ratepayers. In some cases, rates will still go up, but not as much as they might have without the tax savings.

CenterPoint Energy: As noted in this CenterPoint Energy FAQs Sheet:

In order to pass on to customers additional benefits associated with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (the “TCJA”), on August 1, 2019, CenterPoint Energy (“CNP”) filed with the Texas Railroad Commission and its municipal regulatory authorities rate reduction filings in its Houston and Texas Coast Divisions. The filings follow similar rate reduction filings made by the Company in 2018 to reflect benefits associated with the new federal corporate income tax rate. The rates proposed in the August 1, 2019 filings also include necessary costs to restore service following Hurricane Harvey.

The TCJA refund will be reflected in a customer’s bill as follows: 

As a monthly refund over 3 years. Customers will see a separate line item on 
their bill called Tax Refund. This refund will begin with bills rendered on or 
after January 1, 2020.

Entergy Texas: As noted in this October 26, 2018 Entergy press release:

Entergy Texas, Inc. has reached a settlement agreement with the Public Utility Commission Staff and the intervening parties in its rate case, filed on October 5, 2018.  This agreement, pending approval by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, will keep rates low, while continuing to grow the economy by investing in new infrastructure to ensure reliable and cost effective electricity for customers. As part of this plan, Entergy Texas is also passing along substantial savings from federal tax reform directly to its customers.  These tax savings, along with investments in infrastructure to reduce outages and improve service, will result in more affordable and reliable energy to customers. 

“We are pleased to reach an agreement with the parties in the case that benefits customers and helps ensure reliable and affordable energy for Southeast Texas,” said Sallie Rainer, president and CEO of Entergy Texas.  “We are committed to investments that minimize disruptions from outages and give our customers more tools and technology to better control their energy usage.”

Entergy Texas will flow back approximately $200 million in tax savings to customers over a period of up to four years, depending on customer class.  This credit will be reflected in a “TCJA Rider” on customer bills. In addition, customer bills will be credited $25 million over a period of up to four years for lower federal tax rates in 2018, which will be reflected in a “Federal Income Tax Credit” Rider. Customers saw these rates in effect on an interim basis starting October 17, 2018.  Final implementation of these rates is subject to approval of the settlement by the Public Utility Commission; a ruling from the Commission is expected in the coming months. 

Oncor Electric Delivery: As noted in this September 7, 2019 Public Utility Commission of Texas document

Oncor's annual revenue requirement reduction based on the impacts of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 ("TCJA") shall be $75,042,855 for excess accumulated deferred federal income taxes ("excess ADFIT") and $143,789,502 for annual federal income tax ("FIT') expense, for a total annual revenue requirement reduction of $218,832,357. 

Oncor's unprotected excess ADFIT based on the impacts of the TCJA shall be returned to ratepayers over a 10-year amortization period. Signatories reserve the right to seek modification of the amortization period in Oncor's next base-rate case.

Quadvest: As noted by Simon Sequeira, President of Quadvest:

"On behalf of the approximately 30,000 customers Quadvest Utility serves in Southeast Texas, we would like to thank you for your integral part in the development and ultimate passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of FY2017. The passage of this key piece of legislation has allowed Quadvest to proactively reduce our customers' base water and sewer fees by 26% or almost $90 per year/family."

TXU Energy: As noted in this February 20, 2018 TXU Energy letter:

TXU Energy has been following this proceeding and believes that the Commission has taken a prudent approach to this issue by evaluating each utility's unique situation and working with the utilities to adjust existing base rates via credit, upcoming Distribution Cost Recovery Factors (DCRFs), and Wholesale Transmission Rates that will ultimately flow through the Transmission Cost Recovery Factors (TCRFs). 

Given that a significant majority of our retail electric customers have chosen "unbundled" products that directly pass through TDSP charges (including any changes to those charges), the rate adjustments being overseen by the Commission will directly and efficiently flow through to most customers without any additional effort. For the minority of our customers that have chosen "bundled" products, TXU Energy looks forward to working with Commission Staff to evaluate efficient means to provide appropriate value to them. 

Atmos: As noted in this January 28, 2019 Denton Record-Chronicle excerpt:

Atmos ratepayers can expect a small, one-time credit on the gas bill next month, a credit meant to settle some of the savings that followed the 2017 corporate tax cut.

Atmos Energy Corp.’s Mid-Texas Division sent a letter to cities across North Texas last week to tell them about its planned distribution of about $5.2 million in tax savings. Residential ratepayers can expect a $4.08 credit with their February bill; and most businesses, a $12.92 credit.

The savings was made possible by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. When the act went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, it lowered the federal corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent for Atmos.

Southwest Electric Power Company: As noted in this May 17, 2018 Southwest Electric Power Company press release

SWEPCO has approximately 184,000 Texas retail customers. All such customers and all classes of customers will be affected by this change. SWEPCO is requesting to change its rates to reflect the impact of the change in federal income tax rates implemented by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which was passed by Congress late last year. This new federal law reduces the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21%, and SWEPCO estimates that application of the lower income tax rate will result in an annual approximate $18 million, or 4.9%, overall decrease in base rates for Texas retail customers. 

AEP Texas Inc.: As noted in this April 6, 2020 Public Utility Commission of Texas document

The signatories agreed that, to address the effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, AEP Texas will refund a total of $108,020,034, which reflects the following: the difference between the revenues collected under existing rates and the revenues that would have been collected had the existing rates been set using the 21% tax rate enacted under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 until the new rates are implemented; amounts associated with the change in the amortization of protected excess deferred federal income taxes (EDIT) as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 from January 1, 2018 until the date the protected EDIT is included in new rates; and unprotected EDIT associated with the change in tax rates under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. 

The amount of $108,020,034 is being refunded through separate riders for distribution and transmission customers. The signatories agreed that AEP Texas will refund $76,531,681 to distribution customers through its proposed income tax refund rider over a one-year period. The rider will be implemented separately for each division. AEP Texas will refund $31,488,353 to transmission customers as a one-time credit through its transmission cost of service. 

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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