Members of Arizona’s Solar-Power Industry Protest Leased-Panel Tax

Jun 4, 2014

Calling it unfair — and fearing loss of business — the state’s solar industry rallied at the Capitol today to convince Gov. Jan Brewer to overrule a decision by her Department of Revenue that the rooftop panels they lease to customers are taxable. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer explains.

Barry Goldwater Jr., co-chair of an organization sponsored by rooftop solar leasing companies, decries a Department of Revenue interpretation of state laws that the leases are taxable.
Credit Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer

The fight is over a ruling by the agency that, while panels owned by homeowners are not subject to property taxes, those leased from companies are. Spokesman Sean Laux said these firms are in the business of generating electric power. He said they have to be taxed just the same as a power plant, solar or otherwise, owned by a major utility. The industry is unhappy because any property tax on these panels would reduce the financial benefits of homeowners leasing panels to generate their own electricity. Barry Goldwater Jr., co-chair of an industry-financed group, said Brewer should intercede.

“They work for her. She has the authority to step in. She has influence. She can make that happen,” Goldwater said.

But, Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder said that would be improper.

“Inappropriate requests are being made of the governor to interfere and strong-arm the Department of Revenue. And she is not going to do it,” Wilder said.

Wilder said the remedy for those unhappy with the agency’s decision is to ask the Legislature to change the law. In fact, Senate Majority Leader John McComish had a bill this past session to do just that. But, he said it faltered amid lobbying by power companies.