Current Green Energy Tax Credits You Should Know

With Earth Day just around the corner, this occasion reminds us to consider implementing changes to help reduce the amount of energy we consume. But “going green” isn’t just good for the Earth — certain energy-saving expenditures may provide you with generous tax breaks.

Here are some tax credits for buying and installing certain types of energy-efficient residential equipment.

Current Tax Breaks for Green Equipment

On your 2017 through 2019 returns, you may be eligible for a tax credit of 30% of expenditures (including costs for site preparation, assembly, installation, piping, and wiring) for installing the following items:

  • Qualified solar electricity generating equipment and solar water heating equipment
  • Qualified wind energy equipment
  • Qualified geothermal heat pump equipment
  • Qualified fuel cell electricity generating equipment (limited to $500 for each half kilowatt of fuel cell capacity)

These items can be expensive, so the credits can be substantial. And there are no income limits. Even billionaires are eligible. To qualify, the equipment must be installed at your U.S. residence, including a vacation home — except for fuel cell equipment, which must be installed at your primary residence. You can’t claim credits for equipment installed at a property that’s used exclusively as a rental.

To qualify for the credit for solar water heating equipment, at least 50 percent of the energy used to heat water for the property must be generated by the solar equipment. And no credit is allowed for solar water heating equipment unless it’s certified for performance by the nonprofit Solar Rating & Certification Corporation or a comparable entity endorsed by the state in which your residence is located.

In 2020, the credit rate for these expenditures drops to 26% and then to 22% in 2021. After that, the credits are scheduled to expire. These credits can be used to reduce your regular federal income tax bill and the alternative minimum tax (AMT) if you owe it. You might also be eligible for state and local tax benefits, subsidized state and local financing deals, and utility company rebates.

Credits for Minor Energy-Efficient Installations

You can claim a more modest residential energy credit on your 2017 return if you had other qualifying expenditures last year. This break — which expired at the end of 2017 — has a lifetime maximum of $500 and covers qualified expenditures for:

  • Advanced main air circulating fans
  • Natural gas, propane, and oil furnaces and hot water boilers
  • Electric heat pumps and electric heat pump water heaters
  • Biomass fuel stoves
  • High-efficiency central air conditioners
  • Natural gas, propane and oil water heaters
  • Energy-efficient windows, skylights, and doors
  • Energy-efficient roofing products
  • Energy-efficient insulation.

Claiming Your Green Tax Credit

You can only claim green tax credits for expenditures on a “home,” which can include a house, condo, co-op apartment, houseboat, or mobile home, or a manufactured home that conforms to federal manufactured home construction and safety standards.

Keep proof of how much you spend on qualifying equipment, including any extra amounts for site preparation, assembly, and installation. Also keep a record of when the installation was completed, because you can claim the credit only for the year when that happened.

It’s not too late to claim your green credits for the 2017 tax year. Even if you’ve already filed your federal income tax return for 2017, you may be able to file amended returns to collect the tax savings. Ask your tax advisor for more information.

Need Help?

Green tax breaks change from year to year, based on technological developments and green policy initiatives in Washington, D.C. At Barnes Wendling, our tax advisors can help you understand the ever-changing rules and maintain records to support any tax credits you claim for installing energy-saving equipment in your home.

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