Some PSE customers will pay more


Staff writer

About 160 Puget Sound Energy customers in Federal Way will pay a little more on their utility bills for the next few months to make up for being charged too little utility tax in the past, and they won’t be alone.

Puget Sound Energy customers in Kent, Black Diamond and Tumwater also will pay extra to make up for too little in taxes paid to the cities.

Federal Way conducted an audit earlier this year that revealed the utility owed the city tax money. But Roger Thompson, a spokesman for Puget Sound Energy, said PSE routinely updates customer records and corrects coding errors.

Either way, audits revealed the utility owed the city of Federal Way about $61,695 in uncollected utility taxes.

“In the case of Federal Way, we discovered some customers lived or had businesses inside the city and, in our billing, we had them coded outside the city, and thus we weren’t including in their bills the utility tax owed the city,” Thompson said.

Customers’ next bills will include statements showing how much energy they consumed during the time when the tax wasn’t collected and how much tax they owe.

“There won’t be any confusion over who should have paid how much,” Thompson said. “We have all the records.”

The cost of the back taxes will be spread out over the number of months customers weren’t billed, meaning if a Puget Sound Energy customer wasn’t billed for the utility tax for 18 months, the customer would have the tax they owed evenly spread out over the next 18 months.

PSE has about 1.6 million accounts; between 52,000 and 53,000 are in Federal Way, Thompson said. About 3,400 customers from Federal Way, Kent, Black Diamond and Tumwater will be paying back taxes to their respective cities through their utility bills.

PSE won’t bother trying to track down those who might not have paid tax while they lived in Federal Way but have since moved. Thompson said the administrative cost of trying to find them would be prohibitive, and the matter of collection questionable. “It’s just not feasible,” he said.

That customers will have to pay back the taxes owed even though they weren’t billed might leave some understandably upset, Thompson acknowledged.

“It’s a valid concern, but as a utility, we are required to collect any and all taxes a government entity might assess. We don’t have the discretion to waive those taxes,” he said.

Any money collected will be directed to the government entity that levies the tax — in this case, Federal Way. The city levies a 6 percent utility tax, which city officials have earmarked for capital projects.

“Every last cent goes on to the government that assesses it,” Thompson said.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565,

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