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UtilitiesNC Policy Watch followers will recall that last week we reported on a an recent and egregious giveaway to big utility companies in which the North Carolina Utilities Commission pulled a mysterious and unforeseen rabbit out of a hat to reverse its own previous ruling from earlier this year.

The case revolves around whether all of the 2013 tax cuts enacted by the General Assembly and Governor McCrory should be accounted for when it comes to computing the rates that regulated monopolies like Duke Energy are allowed to charge ratepayers. In May, the Commission ruled by a 6-1 vote that they must.

A few months later, however, in an abrupt and apparently unprecedented move, three McCrory appointees to the Commission changed their minds and signed on to a new opinion by the Commission chair, Ed Finley, in which the May ruling was summarily reversed and the “exceptions” (i.e. the appeal) submitted by two of the power companies upheld. Parties in the case were not even given a chance to submit arguments on the question.

According to the new majority, the cut to the state’s corporate income tax should not be factored into rates and companies should be free to keep the windfall if they like. According to the three overruled commissioners:

“The Majority’s decision, rescinding, in part, the Commission’s May 13, 2014 Order in this docket, allows the utilities to charge ratepayers in perpetuity to collect for taxes that the utilities no longer pay. The Majority’s decision errs with respect to fairness to ratepayers; errs procedurally with respect to due process and the limitations of the Commission’s right to rescind, alter, or amend an Order; and errs in its content with respect to its legal conclusions.”

As it turns out now — perhaps because of the adverse publicity here and elsewhere — most, if not all of the big utilities are now saying they will not keep the windfall.

This is good news for consumers but it should not be the end of the story. Even if the utilities are too embarrassed to keep their unearned money, the Commission majority’s heavy-handed action was and is still unacceptable and sets a terrible precedent — both with respect to substance and procedure.

Let’s hope that both the Utilities Commission Public Staff and Attorney General Roy Cooper stick to their guns, appeal the matter to the state judiciary and secure an order vindicating the rights of consumers ASAP.

Uncategorized

In case you missed it, a Sunday editorial in the Greensboro News & Record told it like it is when it comes to the matter of corporate taxes in North Carolina. It was entitled “Next to nothing.”

“What’s less than a lower corporate income-tax rate? What some businesses actually pay.

North Carolina legislators cut the state’s corporate income-tax rate last year from 6.9 percent to 6 percent. It’s scheduled to drop to 5 percent next year.

Republican lawmakers said the cut was needed to create a better business climate and make the state more competitive with its neighbors. Yet, cutting the rate to 5 percent isn’t very meaningful to a corporation that pays barely more than 1 percent.

Duke Energy, based in Charlotte, paid an average of 1.3 percent of North Carolina profits in state corporate income tax from 2008 through 2012, according to a study released last week by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

The government shutdown finally ended last week, but the fight for a balanced approach to the federal budget continues. As part of the deal struck last week, Congress agreed to negotiate a comprehensive budget agreement that addresses sequestration and opens the door for new revenues. Perhaps the best potential source of new revenues comes from reining in the special tax loopholes, deductions, and outright giveaways that allow too many corporations to avoid paying their fair share in taxes.

Over the last year, we’ve profiled some of these tax loopholes, along with the corporations that use them to avoid their responsibilities. This month’s issue takes a look at IBM, which earned $45 billion in profits over the past five yeas, and managed to shelter almost $20 billion of those profits in offshore bank accounts to avoid US taxation. As a result, Big Blue managed to lower its actual effective tax rate to 5.8 percent, well below the statutory corporate tax rate of 35 percent.

As long as corporations like IBM are able to avoid paying their taxes, the rest of us will be asked to pick up the tab for addressing our nation’s budget challenges through spending cuts to key investments that grow our economy and protect our most vulnerable.

For more details, see the profile on IBM.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Poverty continues to impact 1 in 5 North Carolinians, according to 2012 Census Bureau Data released last week. The extent of poverty would be far greater without the safety net and work supports, however. This post is part of a blog series that will explain how the new poverty data demonstrates the important role public programs play and the need for continued support. Read the other posts in this series on SNAP, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the EITC.

As poverty continues to grow across many of North Carolina’s communities, Congress should reject federal budget policies that ask our poorest and most vulnerable citizens to bear the greatest load in putting our nation’s fiscal house in order. Congress needs to chart a course away from asking poor children, hungry seniors, and working families to solve our nation’s budget challenges on their own—through spending cuts to key investments in food assistance, early childhood education, and healthcare—and instead, take a balanced approach to the federal budget, one that includes new revenues and does not increase poverty.

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NC Budget and Tax Center

***This post was authored by Jelicia Diggs.

As Congress debates reforming the federal tax code, it is critically important to raise new revenues that can support our nation’s long-term economic recovery.  One excellent source of new revenues involves the billions of dollars in corporate tax loopholes, deductions, credits, and outright giveaways that allow too many multinational corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  This year, N.C. Policy Watch and the N.C. Budget and Tax Center are focusing on federal corporate tax reform as a means of highlighting a frequently under-reported fact: Namely, not all American corporations are paying the statutory tax rate and therefore are failing to support fiscal responsibility and the investments that are needed for a strong economy.

To underscore this message, we are shining a light on a number of corporate tax avoiders with strong connections to North Carolina by summarizing:

  1. the size and scope of their businesses,
  2. the taxes they have avoided paying in recent years, and
  3. the methods they use to accomplish this.

Click here to read previous profiles of Duke Energy, Merck & Co. and International Paper.

Company: DuPont

Background and North Carolina connections:

Founded over two centuries ago as a gunpowder mill, DuPont has grown into one of the top five largest chemical companies in the world. In fact, Fortune Magazine ranks Dupont as one of the nation’s “Most Admired Companies” and second in the world among chemical companies. DuPont is headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware.

DuPont is best described as a global science company that offers products and services in fifteen industries such as automotive, chemical, medical, and energy. With diverse industries in more than 90 countries, this company puts out to introduce hundreds of products and patents every year. In 1968 DuPont opened its fourth United States location in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The Fayetteville plant manufactures a variety of fibers, new films and specialty chemicals needed by businesses, the military, and consumers.  The Fayetteville location employs just over 900 employees.

Over the past several years, DuPont has experienced a successful recovery from the Great Recession, and is continuing to generate significant profits.  After cutting more than 17,000 jobs in 2010 due to the recession, DuPont has since managed to regain its dominant footing in the chemical industry. The company currently has more than 150 research and development centers and more than 70,000 employees worldwide and $49.7 billion in assets. Forbes.com reported last year that DuPont’s CEO Ellen Kullman has received an average compensation of around $9.7 million per year, for each of the last six years.

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