Understanding Federal Solar Tax Credits

Understanding Federal Solar Tax Credits: What You Need to Know

In the world of taxes, there's a good thing called the Investment Tax Credit, or the Federal Solar Tax Credit. Here's the deal: when you go solar, the government lets you take 30% off the cost from what you owe in federal taxes. This 30% deal will be here until 2033, and then it goes down to 26%.

And guess what? This deal isn't just for homeowners; it's open to businesses too. There's no limit to how much you can save with it.

But remember, this article is just to give you the basics about the Federal Solar Tax Credit. It's not official financial advice. If you're thinking about going solar, it's a good idea to talk to a tax expert or a financial pro first. They can give you the best advice for your situation.

What Is The Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit?

The ITC, brought to life by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, was originally set to end in 2007. But because people found it useful and it helped the U.S. shift towards cleaner energy, Congress kept extending its expiration date. The most recent extension came in August 2022 through the Inflation Reduction Act, stretching the ITC at a 30 percent rate for another ten years. So, homeowners can still get some benefit from the solar investment tax credit until 2034. Here's the ITC timeline:

  • 2016 to 2019: The energy tax credit stood strong at 30 percent of the system's cost.
  • 2020 to 2021: New residential and commercial solar owners received a credit of 26 percent of their system's cost for federal income tax.
  • 2022 to 2032: New residential solar owners can grab a 30 percent credit on their system's cost for their tax bill. Commercial solar systems enjoy this benefit until 2025 when the U.S. Department of Treasury will decide the fate of the ITC for them.
  • 2033: New residential solar owners can claim a 26 percent credit for their system's installation costs on their tax bill.
  • 2034: New residential solar owners can secure a 22 percent credit for their system's installation costs on their tax bill.
  • 2035: Starting this year, there's no more federal credit for residential solar energy systems.

How The Solar Tax Credit Works

If you've got a solar energy system that you own, you're in the running for the solar investment tax credit. Even if your annual tax liability doesn't allow you to take full advantage of the credit immediately, you can carry over the unused portion and apply it in the years to come, all the way up to 2034 for residential energy systems.

But here's the twist – if you've signed a lease or power purchase agreement (PPA) with a solar company, you're not the official owner of the system, and that means you can't claim the tax credit.

One more thing to keep in mind: the ITC program doesn't discriminate based on your income. There are no income limits, so folks from all income brackets have a shot at reaping the benefits of this program.

Solar Tax Credit Eligibility Checklist For 2023

If you're uncertain whether the ITC is applicable to your home, here's a checklist of conditions to consider:

  • Your solar photovoltaic (PV) system was set up between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2034.
  • The solar PV system is on your main or secondary residence in the United States.
  • In the case of an off-site community solar project, the power generated is credited against your home's electricity use and doesn't surpass it. The IRS permits a taxpayer to claim a section 25D tax credit for investing in a part of a community solar project.
  • You are the owner of the solar PV system, which means you either bought it outright or financed it with a loan. You haven't entered a lease or PPA agreement.
  • Your solar PV system is either brand new or in its initial usage phase – the credit can only be applied to the original installation of the solar equipment. For instance, if you purchased a house with an existing solar panel system, you wouldn't be eligible for the credit.

Understanding these criteria will help you determine if the ITC is right for you and your solar setup.

What’s Covered by The Tax Credit?

Homeowners who take advantage of the 30 percent federal ITC can expect it to help cover various expenses, including:

  • Solar Panel Acquisition: The ITC provides relief by covering a significant portion of the expense incurred when purchasing solar panels, making the initial investment in sustainable energy more financially viable.
  • Installation Labor Costs: Solar installation entails various expenses, such as permit fees, inspection charges, and services rendered by developers. The ITC contributes to offsetting these costs, ensuring a smoother and more cost-effective installation process for homeowners.
  • Additional Solar Equipment: In addition to solar panels, various components, including inverters, wiring, and mounting hardware, are necessary for a comprehensive solar energy system. The ITC eases the financial burden by extending its benefits to cover these essential equipment expenses.
  • Energy Storage Systems: Beginning in 2023, the ITC expands its reach to include energy storage systems with a capacity of three kilowatt-hours (kWh) or more. This development allows homeowners to store excess energy and further reduce their dependence on traditional power sources, enhancing their energy independence and environmental impact.
  • Sales Taxes: The ITC not only covers the direct equipment costs but also provides financial relief by addressing sales taxes tied to eligible expenses, offering homeowners a comprehensive approach to managing their solar investment.

With the support of the federal ITC, these previously daunting financial barriers become more manageable for homeowners seeking to embrace the advantages of solar energy. The ITC serves as a powerful incentive to facilitate a transition toward cleaner, more sustainable energy solutions while easing the financial impact on homeowners eager to make the switch.

When Is It Possible to Apply for the Solar Tax Credit and How Long Does It Last?

If you find yourself eligible for the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) but aren't required to pay taxes in the current calendar year, there's an important point to note: the IRS won't issue you a refund check for the claimed credit. This is because the ITC, specifically the 30 percent ITC, is categorized as a non-refundable credit. However, the Department of Energy offers a promising solution for those in this situation. They suggest carrying forward any unused ITC amount to the subsequent tax year. By doing so, you can still make use of the credit if you find yourself with a tax liability in the following year, even if you don't have one in the present year.

This approach, while it may not offer an immediate financial benefit, ensures that you won't miss out on the ITC's advantages. It allows you to take advantage of the credit when your financial circumstances align with a tax liability, making the ITC a valuable tool in supporting your transition to clean and renewable energy sources while easing the financial impact in the long run.

Utilizing The Federal Tax Credit In Combination With Additional Incentives

Besides the ITC, there exist various solar perks, such as refunds, state-sponsored programs, and other tax breaks. These can vary depending on where you live. Some of these incentives might impact the ITC, while others can be used together to cut the cost of getting solar power. Here's how you can combine these incentives with the federal ITC:

  • Rebates from your utility company: Generally, these aren't counted as taxable income due to federal law. So, any refund from your utility company for installing solar will be subtracted from your system cost before calculating the tax credit.
  • Rebates from the state: These typically don't affect your federal tax credit.
  • State tax credit: If you qualify for a state tax credit for your solar system, like a common state property tax credit, it won't decrease your federal tax credits. However, it's essential to keep in mind that receiving a state tax credit can affect your federal tax returns because your taxable income for federal purposes will be higher. This is because you'll have less state income tax to deduct.
  • Payments from renewable energy certificates: Whenever you earn money from selling renewable energy certificates, it's likely to be counted as taxable income, which will increase your overall income. Nevertheless, it won't reduce your tax credit.
  • Other federal energy efficiency home improvement credits: In line with the Inflation Improvement Act, there are multiple credits available for home improvements that can be paired with solar panels. These credits are part of a broader set of federal incentives aimed at making your home more energy-efficient.

How Do I Claim The Federal Solar Tax Credit?

To claim the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), you'll need to include it in your annual federal tax return. If you have an accountant managing your tax filings, it's important to inform them about your recent solar installation in the past year. Alternatively, if you handle your tax returns personally, you can find detailed guidance on how to claim the solar ITC from reliable sources.

This process typically involves filling out the IRS Form 5695 and completing a few other necessary tax forms to ensure that you receive the tax credit you qualify for. While it may appear somewhat complex, it's essential to follow these steps meticulously to ensure you reap the full benefits of the ITC. By informing your tax advisor or following expert guidance, you can optimize the advantages of this tax credit, which plays a crucial role in promoting the adoption of solar energy and reducing reliance on traditional energy sources.

Impact of the Solar Tax Credit

While the United States races to meet demanding clean energy targets, the role of federal policies and incentives in this endeavor has gained considerable momentum. The growing emphasis on cleaner energy sources has fostered a notable surge in solar adoption across the country, encompassing a wide spectrum of installations, from smaller-scale local systems to substantial utility-scale projects. At the core of this transformative shift is the federal tax credit, which serves as a catalyst empowering businesses, homeowners, and taxpayers alike to mitigate the financial burden associated with solar adoption. Not only does it contribute to lowering the initial costs of solar installations, but it also plays a pivotal role in bolstering the reliability of long-term energy supply.

The Investment Tax Credit (ITC) stands out as a driving force behind the remarkable achievements in the realm of solar energy, effectively charting a course towards a more resilient, environmentally conscious, and sustainable future. In an endorsement of its impact, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports an astounding 200% expansion in the U.S. solar industry, a testament to the effectiveness of these federal incentives. For those eager to delve deeper into this evolving landscape, there is a wealth of information available to explore, especially in terms of how solar panel costs and efficiency have evolved over time. This dynamic shift reflects the nation's commitment to cleaner, more sustainable energy sources, reducing its environmental footprint while ensuring long-term energy stability.

Start Your Solar Journey Today with Forme Solar!

Ready to Embrace Solar Power? Get Started with Forme Solar Today! Our commitment to helping you harness the power of the sun for a sustainable future begins here. Discover how you can reduce your carbon footprint, lower your energy bills, and contribute to a cleaner environment. With Forme Solar, your path to affordable and eco-friendly energy solutions is just a click away. Join us and take the first step towards a brighter, more sustainable tomorrow. Contact us now!