Grassley gung-ho on private tax debt collectors
We're in the money

A welcome utility bill

If ever a bill was welcome, it was the gas company statement we got this week.

Installment_statement_2_2 Just days after we had to come up with cash for the IRS, our local natural gas company dunned us a whopping $2.52.

That's right. Two decimal point five two.

Not that our gas bill is ever outrageous, even in the couple of weeks each winter when we have to turn on the furnace it fuels. But this has to be the smallest utility bill I've ever received, even going back to when I was single, living alone in Lubbock, Texas, in a studio apartment.

Of course my first reaction was that it was a mistake. We've dealt with utility bill errors before. In fact, back in Florida we got a $300 gas service bill and I just knew it meant we had a gas leak. As soon as I saw that bill, I started packing our bags to go to a hotel so we wouldn't be around when the house blew.

But upon checking every possible appliance and gas line connection, along with our swimming pool heater that ran on gas, as well as the outside meter and main pipe to the house, I couldn't detect any unwanted odor. So I figured it was an error.

I called the gas company that night. They sent out a technician the next morning. And yes, the meter reader that month had simply misread ours.

I thought I was going to have to do the same thing here, but with much less welcome corrective results. Then I took a closer look at our bill.

Seems that after 18 months, the gas company decided to apply the deposit we put down when we moved in to this latest bill. The company may have told me that would happen when I set up the account back in 2005. I honestly don't remember.

Last of the deposits: A couple of other utilities -- water, phone -- already had applied our deposits, so I just thought the gas company would hold onto its pre-service cash and credit it when we eventually closed the account. That was what a couple of them did when we left Florida.

But I'm glad the utility decided to go ahead and cash it in now. It was a nice surprise to have such a small bill this month after handing over much larger amounts, for both our annual 1040 filing as well as estimated tax payments, this month.

And we even got 36 cents in interest on the deposit. Hey, I'm not turning down any penny!

Avoiding the deposit: The best treatment we got when it came to putting down a service deposit was from Austin Electric.

When I called to set up that account, the representative told me that if I could get our previous utility provider to fax them a statement noting how long we had that prior account, affirming that our payment history was satisfactory (or better) and that we closed the account in good standing, then we didn't have to put down an electric company deposit.

Florida Power & Light did just that. And Austin Electric turned on our lights and refrigerator and TVs and computers and everything else without us having to put down a cent.

The next time you move, check with your utilities to see if they offer such a deal. If we were ever going to move again, which we're not, I would!


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