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Federal – Residential

Federal Incentives for Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency

While the list below covers many incentives, we’ve listed the two most often used by our clients first:

  1. The Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit covers 30% of the investment and can be used over several years until Dec 31, 2016.
  2. The Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit covers a variety of items (water heaters, furnaces , boilers, heat pumps, air conditioners, building insulation, windows, doors, roofs) at 30% and lasts until Dec 31, 2010 (this year).

Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit


State: Federal
Incentive Type: Personal Tax Credit
Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Solar Water Heat, Photovoltaics, Wind, Fuel Cells, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Other Solar Electric Technologies
Applicable Sectors: Residential
Amount: 30%
Maximum Incentive: Solar-electric systems placed in service before 1/1/2009: $2,000
Solar-electric systems placed in service after 12/31/2008: no maximum
Solar water heaters placed in service before 1/1/2009: $2,000
Solar water heaters placed in service after 12/31/2008: no maximum
Wind turbines placed in service in 2008: $4,000
Wind turbines placed in service after 12/31/2008: no maximum
Geothermal heat pumps placed in service in 2008: $2,000
Geothermal heat pumps placed in service after 12/31/2008: no maximum
Fuel cells: $500 per 0.5 kW
Carryover Provisions: Excess credit may be carried forward to succeeding tax year
Eligible System Size: Fuel cells: 0.5 kW minimum
Equipment Requirements: Solar water heating property must be certified by SRCC or by comparable entity endorsed by the state in which the system is installed. At least half the energy used to heat the dwelling’s water must be from solar. Geothermal heat pumps must meet federal Energy Star requirements. Fuel cells must have electricity-only generation efficiency greater than 30%.
Web Site: http://www.energystar.gov/taxcredits
Authority 1:
Date Enacted:
8/8/2005 (subsequently amended)
Date Effective:
1/1/2006
Expiration Date
12/31/2016
Summary:
Note: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 does not allow taxpayers eligible for the residential renewable energy tax credit to receive a U.S. Treasury Department grant instead of taking this credit.

Established by the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005, the federal tax credit for residential energy property initially applied to solar-electric systems, solar water heating systems and fuel cells. The Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 (H.R. 1424) extended the tax credit to small wind-energy systems and geothermal heat pumps, effective January 1, 2008. Other key revisions included an eight-year extension of the credit to December 31, 2016, the ability to take the credit against the alternative minimum tax, and the removal of the $2,000 credit limit for solar-electric systems beginning in 2009. The credit was further enhanced in February 2009 by The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1: Div. B, Sec. 1122, p. 46), which removed the maximum credit amount for all eligible technologies (except fuel cells) placed in service after 2008.


Contact:

Public Information – IRS
U.S. Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20224
Phone: (800) 829-1040
Web Site: http://www.irs.gov

A taxpayer may claim a credit of 30% of qualified expenditures for a system that serves a dwelling unit located in the United States and used as a residence by the taxpayer. Expenditures with respect to the equipment are treated as made when the installation is completed. If the installation is on a new home, the “placed in service” date is the date of occupancy by the homeowner. Expenditures include labor costs for onsite preparation, assembly or original system installation, and for piping or wiring to interconnect a system to the home. If the federal tax credit exceeds tax liability, the excess amount may be carried forward to the succeeding taxable year. The excess credit can be carried forward until 2016, but it is unclear whether the unused tax credit can be carried forward after then. The maximum allowable credit, equipment requirements and other details vary by technology, as outlined below.

Solar-electric property

  • There is no maximum credit for systems placed in service after 2008. The maximum credit is $2,000 for systems placed in service before January 1, 2009.
  • Systems must be placed in service on or after January 1, 2006, and on or before December 31, 2016.
  • The home served by the system does not have to be the taxpayer’s principal residence.
  • Note that the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has published a three-page document that provides answers to frequently asked questions regarding the federal tax credits for solar energy.

Solar water-heating property

  • There is no maximum credit for systems placed in service after 2008. The maximum credit is $2,000 for systems placed in service before January 1, 2009.
  • Systems must be placed in service on or after January 1, 2006, and on or before December 31, 2016.
  • Equipment must be certified for performance by the Solar Rating Certification Corporation (SRCC) or a comparable entity endorsed by the government of the state in which the property is installed.
  • At least half the energy used to heat the dwelling’s water must be from solar in order for the solar water-heating property expenditures to be eligible.
  • The tax credit does not apply to solar water-heating property for swimming pools or hot tubs.
  • The home served by the system does not have to be the taxpayer’s principal residence.
  • Note that the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has published a three-page document that provides answers to frequently asked questions regarding the federal tax credits for solar energy.

Fuel cell property

  • The maximum credit is $500 per half kilowatt (kW).
  • Systems must be placed in service on or after January 1, 2006, and on or before December 31, 2016.
  • The fuel cell must have a nameplate capacity of at least 0.5 kW of electricity using an electrochemical process and an electricity-only generation efficiency greater than 30%.
  • In case of joint occupancy, the maximum qualifying costs that can be taken into account by all occupants for figuring the credit is $1,667 per half kilowatt. This does not apply to married individuals filing a joint return. The credit that may be claimed by each individual is proportional to the costs he or she paid.
  • The home served by the system must be the taxpayer’s principal residence.

Small wind-energy property

  • There is no maximum credit for systems placed in service after 2008. The maximum credit is $500 per half kilowatt, not to exceed $4,000, for systems placed in service in 2008.
  • Systems must be placed in service on or after January 1, 2008, and on or before December 31, 2016.
  • The home served by the system does not have to be the taxpayer’s principal residence.

Geothermal heat pumps

  • There is no maximum credit for systems placed in service after 2008. The maximum credit is $2,000 for systems placed in service in 2008.
  • Systems must be placed in service on or after January 1, 2008, and on or before December 31, 2016.
  • The geothermal heat pump must meet federal Energy Star program requirements in effect at the time the installation is completed.
  • The home served by the system does not have to be the taxpayer’s principal residence.

Significantly, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 repealed a previous limitation on the use of the credit for eligible projects also supported by “subsidized energy financing.” For projects placed in service after December 31, 2008, this limitation no longer applies.

History

The federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 established a 30% tax credit (up to $2,000) for the purchase and installation of residential solar electric and solar water heating property and a 30% tax credit (up to $500 per 0.5 kilowatt) for fuel cells. Initially scheduled to expire at the end of 2007, the tax credits were extended through December 31, 2008, by the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006.

In October 2008, the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 extended the tax credits once again (until December 31, 2016), and a new tax credit for small wind-energy systems and geothermal heat pump systems was created. In February 2009, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 removed the maximum credit amount for all eligible technologies (except fuel cells) placed in service after 2008.

Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit


State: Federal
Incentive Type: Personal Tax Credit
Eligible Efficiency Technologies: Water Heaters, Furnaces , Boilers, Heat pumps, Air conditioners, Building Insulation, Windows, Doors, Roofs
Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Biomass, Stoves that use qualified biomass fuel
Applicable Sectors: Residential
Amount: 30%
Maximum Incentive: Aggregate amount of credit for all technologies placed in service in 2009 and 2010 combined is limited to $1,500
Equipment Requirements: Equipment must be new and in compliance with all applicable performance and safety standards as described in tax code
Web Site: http://www.energystar.gov/taxcredits
Authority 1:
Date Enacted:
8/8/2005 (subsequently amended)
Date Effective:
1/1/2006
Expiration Date
12/31/2010

Summary:

The federal tax credit for energy-efficient home improvements was established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. After expiring December 31, 2007, the credit was extended and expanded by The Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 (H.R. 1424: Div. B, Sec. 302) and The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1: Div. B, Sec. 1121). The credit now applies to eligible equipment purchased between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2010. In addition to extending the credit, H.R. 1424 and H.R. 1 strengthened the efficiency requirements for most equipment, extended the credit to stoves that use biomass fuel and asphalt roofs with appropriate cooling granules; raised the cap for the credit; and redesigned the way the credit is calculated.

The credit applies to energy efficiency improvements in the building envelope of existing homes and for the purchase of high-efficiency heating, cooling and water-heating equipment. Efficiency improvements or equipment must serve a dwelling in the United States that is owned and used by the taxpayer as a primary residence. The maximum amount of homeowner credit for all improvements combined is $1,500 for equipment purchased during the two-year period of 2009 and 2010.

Building Envelope Improvements

Owners of existing homes receive a tax credit worth 30% of the cost of upgrading the efficiency of the building’s envelope. Installation (labor) costs are not included. The following improvements are eligible for the tax credit:

  • Insulation materials and systems designed to reduce a home’s heat loss or gain
  • Exterior doors and windows (including skylights) and
  • Pigmented metal roofs designed to reduce heat gain, and asphalt roofs with appropriate cooling granules.

Heating, Cooling and Water-Heating Equipment

Taxpayers who purchase qualified residential energy-efficient property are eligible for a tax credit worth 30% of the system cost, including labor costs. The credit may also be applied to labor costs for assembly and original installation of eligible property. The following types of equipment are eligible:

  • Electric heat pump water heaters
  • Electric heat pumps
  • Central air conditioners
  • Natural gas, propane or oil water heaters
  • Natural gas, propane or oil furnace or hot water boilers
  • Advanced main air circulating fans
  • Biomass stoves that use “plant-derived fuel available on a renewable or recurring basis, including agricultural crops and trees, wood and wood waste and residues (including wood pellets), plants (including aquatic plants), grasses, residues, and fibers”

Performance and quality standards for tax credit eligibility vary by technology. (See 26 USC § 25C, H.R. 1424 of 2008 and H.R. 1 of 2009) for details. Additionally, the Energy Star web site offers detailed information on qualifying products, and IRS Notice 2009-53 provides more details.

Significantly, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 repealed a previous limitation on the use of the credit for eligible projects also supported by “subsidized energy financing.” For projects placed in service after December 31, 2008, this limitation no longer applies. Businesses that receive other incentives are advised to consult with a tax professional regarding how to calculate this federal tax credit.

Background

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 established the tax credit for energy improvements to existing homes. The credit was originally limited to purchases made in 2006 and 2007, with an aggregate cap of $500 for all qualifying purchases made in these two years combined. There were also separate individual caps for the different equipment types. H.R. 1424 of 2008 reinstated the credit for 2009 purchases and made other minor adjustments. H.R. 1 further extended the credit to include purchases made in 2010 and replaced the $500 aggregate cap with a $1,500 aggregate cap for installations made in 2009 and 2010. Tax credits for installations made in 2006 and 2007 are still limited to $500. Any purchase made in 2008 is not eligible for this tax credit.

Geothermal heat pumps were originally eligible for this credit, with a $300 cap. However, geothermal heat pumps are now eligible for the residential renewable energy tax credit, with no cap.


Contact:

Public Information – IRS
U.S. Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20224
Phone: (800) 829-1040
Web Site: http://www.irs.gov

Residential Energy Conservation Subsidy Exclusion (Personal)


State: Federal
Incentive Type: Personal Exemption
Eligible Efficiency Technologies: Yes; specific technologies not identified
Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Photovoltaics
Applicable Sectors: Residential, Multi-Family Residential
Amount: 100% of subsidy
Web Site: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p525/index.html
Authority 1:
Date Enacted:
1992

Summary:

According to Section 136 of the U.S. Code, energy conservation subsidies provided by public utilities,* either directly or indirectly, are nontaxable: “Gross income shall not include the value of any subsidy provided (directly or indirectly) by a public utility to a customer for the purchase or installation of any energy conservation measure.” (This exclusion does not apply to electricity-generating systems registered as “qualifying facilities” under the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act of 1978.)

The term “energy conservation measure” includes installations or modifications primarily designed to reduce consumption of electricity or natural gas, or improve the management of energy demand. Eligible dwelling units include houses, apartments, condominiums, mobile homes, boats and similar properties. If a building or structure contains both dwelling and other units, any subsidy must be properly allocated.

Given the definition of “energy conservation measure,” there is strong evidence that utility rebates for residential solar-thermal projects and solar-electric systems may be nontaxable. However, the IRS has not ruled definitively on this issue. For taxpayers considering using this provision for renewable energy systems, consultation with a tax professional is advised.

Other types of utility subsidies that may come in the form of credits or reduced rates may also be nontaxable, according to IRS Publication 525:

“Utility rebates. If you are a customer of an electric utility company and you participate in the utility’s energy conservation program, you may receive on your monthly electric bill either: a reduction in the purchase price of electricity furnished to you (rate reduction), or a nonrefundable credit against the purchase price of the electricity. The amount of the rate reduction or nonrefundable credit is not included in your income.”

* The term “public utility” is defined as an entity “engaged in the sale of electricity or natural gas to residential, commercial, or industrial customers for use by such customers.” The term includes federal, state and local government entities.


Contact:

Public Information – IRS
U.S. Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20224
Phone: (800) 829-1040
Web Site: http://www.irs.gov