The cost of energy will go up this month for many Montanans because of an increase in state taxes charged to Northwestern Energy.

According to the new Vice Chair of the Public Service Commission Bob Lake, the taxes were unexpected because the Montana Department of Revenue does not have a firm accounting standard for assessing the taxes on utilities.

Full Interview with PSC vice chair Bob Lake:

"The problem we have had is that the department of Revenue has used its authority to pick which of those determinations will yield the greatest amount of money for the state," says Lake. "So then, they go in there and they change it between one year and the next, so the challenge of giving it a real accurate projection on taxes paid is very, very difficult for the utility."

The Montana Public Service Commission will meet tomorrow, January 11, but despite what the PSC may do, rates will almost certainly increase so that Northwestern Energy can collect the taxes owed. Lake says this has happened many times over the past eight years and that the rates per consumer are expected to go up by around $10 to $12 for the year.

"We haven't changed our standards, but a company may look differently than it did 10 years ago," says Department of Revenue Public Information Officer Mary Ann Dunwell.

Dunwell asserts that it is the businesses that have changed and increased their taxable income base by offering different services or performing in a different way. Dunwell was not able to speak specifically to the case of Northwestern Energy.

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