Seattle's new home oil tax could penalize elderly, middle-class families

Seattle is set to tax residents for using home heating oil in an effort to move the city away from a dependency on fossil fuels.

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The city's Democratic Mayor Jenny Durkan in late September signed into law a bill that could prove costly to those unable to keep up with emerging home technology. A tax on heating oil for homes will go into effect starting next summer, giving residents of Seattle less than a year to make costly adjustments or risk paying even more in taxes.

The tax, which some critics deem a "sin tax," will be to the amount of $0.24 per gallon. The genesis behind the law is to continue the city’s push to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

“Tax increases on fuel, such as Seattle's tax, penalizes families and households who can ill afford the latest and greatest efficient home heating systems,” Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told FOX Business. “The impact will be most severe on low incomes and not all those who use heating oil have alternatives, but with a higher cost of fuel may push more people who do have the means to convert to other fuels while leaving others out in the cold.”

As part of this law, “a requirement for heating oil tank owners to decommission or upgrade all existing underground oil tanks by 2028. Revenue from the tax will provide rebates and grants for Seattle homeowners to energy-efficient electric heat pumps.” Conversions and upgrades to furnaces can be expensive, adding another layer of expense for Seattle residents.

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The law does propose that low-income residents will see the cost of their conversion covered, noting that “approximately 1,000 low-income households are estimated to be eligible for a fully funded conversion.”