The estimate of expected tax payments is one component we consider when we set revenue allowances for regulated electricity and gas networks. These allowances are set using a ‘building block’ approach where revenue is expected to equal the total costs incurred by the regulated networks, including expected tax costs. The AER determines the expected cost of corporate tax in accordance with the relevant rules—that is, the National Electricity Rules (NER) and National Gas Rules (NGR). It is an incentive framework, so the energy networks retain the benefit (or detriment) where costs are lower (or higher) than expected. Changing the approach to estimating tax for regulated energy networks will therefore change the total revenue allowance for these businesses.
Preliminary advice from the Australian Tax Office (ATO) identifies a number of drivers causing an apparent material discrepancy between the tax allowances set by the AER and the actual tax payments made to the ATO by the regulated networks.
The AER will investigate the difference between tax allowances and tax payments, including using its information gathering powers. The AER will examine these drivers and consider how they might be addressed. Options may include changes to how the AER regulates the tax aspects of its revenue determinations and/or changes to the NER and NGR.
We released an initial report on 28 June 2018. In the current phase of the review the AER is using its formal information gathering powers to obtain detailed tax information from service providers.
Our final report and recommendations will be released by December 2018.