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Thursday, October 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Utility customers could get breaks on electric, gas bills from federal tax reform

 (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
(Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Investor-owned utilities in Washington and Idaho must report anticipated savings from lower corporate tax rates to state regulators.

Regulators say they’ll use the information to determine whether utility customers should get corresponding breaks on their electric and natural gas bills.

The 2017 federal tax overhaul reduced the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, which affects companies such as Avista Corp., Puget Sound Energy, Pacific Power and Light and Idaho Power.

“We expect them to pass those benefits on to Washington customers,” Dave Danner, chairman of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, said in a recent news release.

In Washington, customers won’t see immediate credits on their bills or reduced utility rates, state officials said. The expected tax savings will be taken into consideration when the state Utilities and Transportation Commission works through rate cases.

Avista sells electricity and natural gas to customers in Eastern Washington and Idaho. The Spokane-based utility recently got approval to raise its base rates in Idaho, and it has a similar request pending before Washington regulators.

In Idaho, investor-owned utilities must report expected financial gains from the lower tax rate to the state Public Utilities Commission by March 30. Based on the savings, the utilities must also propose changes to customers rates.

Once the reports are filed, the commission staff will audit the utilities and report the results to the commission within 60 days.

The three-member commission will decide whether to make adjustments in companies’ rates.

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