National utility trade association Edison Electric Institute (EEI) has admitted that its members are pushing for solar taxes. Utilities across the country are lobbying for Value of Solar Tariffs (VOSTs), which require solar homeowners to sell the solar power they generate to the utility. That sale triggers substantial taxation for the homeowners. When discussing whether VOSTs are a sale, which results in hidden taxes, EEI’s own General Counsel Edward Comer stated, “If [the utility is] required to purchase the power, I think legally there’s a sale.”
Comer’s admission occurred at an Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) solar workshop last week. VOSTs have become popular with utilities trying to stop rooftop solar. The tariffs create hidden taxes for solar homeowners, as explained in a memo from top national law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Comer also agreed that homeowners face these taxes even if the utility provides payments as a “credit” to the customer (this accounting sleight of hand does not make the tax issue magically disappear). Said Corner: “I don’t think that there’s really a distinction whether a utility pays [a VOST] through a credit or a payment.”
“Utilities from Arizona, to California, to New York who are lobbying for VOSTs, have some serious explaining to do now that EEI’s own general counsel agrees with TASC about the severe tax consequences of these policies” said TASC President Bryan Miller. “Regulators can now see VOSTs for what they are – hidden taxes that hurt unsuspecting homeowners.”
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