Capital Credits—A Powerful Return on Your Investment
Each month when you pay your electric bill, it isn’t just payment for service, but an investment in a company you own. One of the many benefits of being a member-owner of Beartooth Electric Cooperative is receiving a capital credit check as a return on your investment, much like a dividend on stocks. As a member, you build equity in the cooperative each year you receive service.
Member equity is the essential tool Beartooth Electric uses to build, maintain, and upgrade the facilities necessary to provide you the reliable, low-cost electric service you have become accustomed to receiving. The retirement of capital credits is the return of member-furnished capital. Beartooth Electric is a not-for-profit electric cooperative, so any money left over after paying for all fiscal-year operating costs is returned to our members.
This year, your Board of Trustees has authorized the retirement of capital credits (also known as patronage capital) totaling $404,459. The retirements are for allocations from the remaining 48% of the year 1996, 100% of the year 1997, and 50% of the year 1998. If you were a BEC member during those years and purchased electricity, you will receive a check. This check represents your monetary credit based on how much you paid BEC for electric service during those years. “On behalf of the Beartooth Electric Cooperative Board of Trustees, it’s a privilege for Beartooth Electric to issue capital credit checks,” said Kevin Owens, General Manager. “It demonstrates our commitment to our members.”
What are the steps to receiving a capital credit retirement check?
Step 1: When you sign up for electric service with Beartooth Electric, you become a cooperative member-owner. As you purchase electricity from the cooperative, you build equity.
Step 2: Each year, Beartooth Electric designates a portion of what you pay in electricity purchases to your capital credit account—called a capital credit allocation. The allocation is determined by using a multiplying factor that is common to all members based upon the total purchases for that year. This ensures each member’s allocation is a fair and equitable percentage.
Step 3: Capital credits are retired at the discretion of the Board of Trustees and as the cooperative’s financial conditions allow. Capital credits are your investment in Beartooth Electric, and our goal is to return them to you on a reasonable and systematic basis. When the Board of Trustees determines the cooperative has met its financial requirements, they may decide to “retire” (pay) the capital credits back to our members.
Note: If you move, make sure to give your new address to Beartooth Electric, so we can continue to refund any monies you are eligible to receive.
We have checks not cashed from previous capital credit retirements. Please check to see if your name appears on the Unclaimed Capital Credits list on our website www.beartoothelectric.com. Call the BEC office at 4006-446-2310 to make a claim.
Non-taxable Income: Capital credits are a return of money paid for electricity in a previous year and are generally not taxable income for residential consumers. Commercial and industrial consumers should discuss any capital credits retirements with their tax advisers.
Unclaimed Capital Credits
Unclaimed Capital Credits are Capital credit retirement checks mailed and returned to Beartooth Electric or otherwise gone uncashed. Unclaimed Capital Credits remain in the member or previous member’s account.
A cooperative shall, upon the action of the board of trustees, retain retirements of patronage capital allocated to its members that remain unclaimed for a period of 5 years after the end of the year in which the retirement is made. Unclaimed retirements retained by the cooperative must be used for educational purposes. This is in accordance with Montana Code Annotated 35.18.316.
Capital credits represent each member’s ownership of the cooperative. They are the margins credited (or allocated) to the members of the cooperative based on their purchases from the cooperative. These margins are used by the cooperative as capital to operate the business for a period of time.
Capital credits should not be confused with profits, which are a return on capital. Retirement of capital credits is a return of member-furnished capital. Cooperatives exist not to make a profit but to provide low-cost electricity.
Allocations are made annually for each member, based upon the amount of electricity purchased the previous year. An allocation is the amount set aside into a separate account for the cooperative to use as operating capital for reliability improvements and maintenance over a period of years. Your allocation notice will be mailed to you usually during the month of April.
A retirement is the amount you receive back as a capital credit refund. It is a percentage of your total capital credit balance. The percentage to retire is decided by the board of trustees annually, based upon the financial condition of the cooperative permits, determined by the Board, and as BEC bylaw and policy provisions are met, and according to Rural Utilities Service (RUS), and BEC lender regulations of the cooperative.
No. Allocations are used as the operating capital of the cooperative. They are not available until a percentage is retired and refunded back to you as the Cooperative’s financial condition warrants and the board of trustees approves.
Remember that capital credit funds are used for reliability improvements and maintenance—and these are long term investments. Capital credits cannot be refunded all at once because they help the cooperative remain financially sound, thereby ensuring a stable, reliable electric service for the benefit of the members we serve.
Capital credit allocations are pooled together and used as operating capital so that we can serve our members with reliable power. These funds pay for power reliability improvements and maintenance such as replacing power lines or building substations. If we refunded the total amount of allocations, we would have to borrow that amount of money in order to continue operating. Having operating capital helps the cooperative minimize the amount of high-interest money it must borrow, which in turn helps lower member’s costs by stabilizing rates.
When the board of trustees has determined the financial condition allows a retirement of capital credits, the board can approve a certain percentage of the capital credit funds to be retired (or refunded) to the membership.
Cooperatives operate on a set of seven ethical principles that include a self-supporting system of operations. This system calls for a portion of any funds left over at the end of the year after all expenses are covered to be allocated to those who used and paid for their services, the member-owners. Capital credit allocations help a cooperative qualify for cooperative status under federal income tax law, which reduces cost to the member-owners. Furthermore, the capital credits system of allocations and refunds helps keep member’s rates lower by reducing the amount of the cooperative’s debt.
Capital credits cannot be refunded when you move because they are used for long term investments and operating the cooperative to provide reliable service to its members. Because capital credit retirements are paid a number of years after the credits are earned and allocated to your account, always keep the cooperative informed of any address and telephone changes.
In the event a member dies, the capital credits in the member’s account become a part of the estate. In order to assist the member’s heirs or beneficiaries in closing the estate, the capital credits are retired. Upon request by the personal representative of the estate, or the heirs of a deceased member where no personal representative has been appointed, the cooperative will provide a listing of the documentation required to retire the account.
All members of the cooperative earn capital credits whether it be a person, trust, or a business. It all depends on how the membership is opened at the cooperative. Capital credits are allocated to entities in the same manner as they are to a natural person. Refunded capital credits may or may not be taxable based on the member treatment of the prior payments of electrical service on their tax returns. However, as we cannot give tax advice and each entity’s situation is different, we encourage you to contact your tax advisor if you have a specific question.
When the owner of a business is operating as an individual under an assumed business name passes away, the capital credits may be payable to the estate of the deceased natural person owning the business. It is important to retain your tax documents showing the business operating as an individual under an assumed business name, such as an IRS 1040 with the Schedule C.