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Deals & Dealmakers

Questioning utility bills could save customers thousands of dollars

Companies in virtually every industry pay tens of millions of dollars annually in sales and use taxes on their utilities, yet few ever question whether they’re paying more than they should.

And that could be a costly mistake, according to Michael Steifman, CEO of UtiliSave, an optimizer and auditor of utility data.

Steifman, whose company represents such major real estate owners as SL Green, Silverstein and RF, recently recouped $700,000 for just one customer.

According to Steifman, the New York- based owner/manager of a 10 million square foot property portfolio did question the accuracy of its utility bills after failing to properly optimize its refund request and the result was “electrifying”.

UtiliSave was able to recover over $700,000 in sales tax refunds with much more savings expected down the road.

“This client was right on the money not only to question their bills, but to engage a firm with the right technical expertise and know-how to determine whether their filings were accurate,” added Steifman, who noted that most companies simply assume their sales tax filings are correct or “under control.”

Often, that’s not the case. According to Steifman, many companies miss out on significant savings opportunities because they may not be aware of all the rules and regulations, have misapplied the appropriate policies regarding sales tax refunds, or have collected data incorrectly or overlooked exemptions within their portfolio.

In the most recent case, while the client’s staff was diligent in preparing and filing the sales tax returns for the whole portfolio, a number of processing, data collection and presentation errors that might have seemed insignificant at first glance resulted in not optimizing the amount of the sales tax refunds due to the client.

To its credit, the client was willing to have its work reviewed and scrutinized by a third party, understanding that the result would either validate its internal processes or find added value and help correct its internal process moving forward.

UtiliSave rectified the situation by combining a thorough review of the historical sales tax returns with a meticulous scrutiny of the reporting formats.

Additionally, UtiliSave leveraged their propriety methodology for calculating the refunds going back for the maximum amount of years to achieve the optimal return for the client.

In another instance, UtiliSave recouped approximately $200,000 in utility sales tax refunds with interest for a company that manufactures complex castings for turbine engine applications used in commercial jets.

In this case, UtiliSave discovered through an extensive audit and analysis an account in the client’s extensive portfolio that was not taking advantage of a specific exemption that resulted in years of overpayment in sales tax for a natural gas account.

“The bottom line”, noted Steifman, “is that despite the general perception that your company is paying sales and use taxes properly,  utility customers can benefit greatly from having their sales tax filings analyzed and reviewed, as RFR did, because maximizing refunds can be a complicated process.”

At UtiliSave, reviewing utility sales taxes for opportunities is a mandatory part of its auditing process, and provides customers with a third party review at no cost.

The company is able to carry out a deep dive of analysis with thorough and exacting examination of all past submissions; reviews the methods of exemption; checks and double checks all components; and applies innovative approaches to seek out all benefits that are applicable to a company’s portfolio.

Headquartered in New York City and servicing over 16,000 properties nationwide, UtiliSave was founded in 1991 and has been developing its own intricate data analysis software since 1998.

Equipped as a total utility management partner, UtiliSave benefits not only large energy consumers, but also Efficiency Project Providers and ESCOs / Utility Companies.

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