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What Are Energy Tax Credits?

Written by Riley Adams, CPA • Reviewed by a TurboTax CPAUpdated for Tax Year 2023 • December 16, 2023 12:27 PM
OVERVIEW

Energy tax credits can bring down the effective cost of investing in various energy endeavors the government feels important to support.

 

Two renewable energy technicians look out over a wind farm as they talk.

Key Takeaways

  • Energy tax credits are government incentives to provide tax savings to individuals and businesses when investing in certain energy technologies.
  • Energy credits can lower the net cost of purchasing certain qualifying equipment, upgrades, or improvements.
  • Many energy tax credits have requirements you have to meet to claim them, such as income eligibility and qualifying technologies.

How do energy tax credits work?

When governments want to encourage a particular economic activity, one action they can take is to provide incentives in the tax code. Tools such as tax deductions and tax credits can lower the cost to incentivize taxpayers to participate in a desired activity. In the case of energy consumption, the federal government has established several tax credits to increase the usage of non-fossil fuel energy sources, improve home energy efficiency, and more. Often, these lower the cost of purchasing certain qualifying equipment, upgrades, or improvements.

Instead of providing immediate discounts on these purchases, the federal government often offers to reduce your taxes. For example, if you purchased a $20,000 rooftop solar system and it qualifies for the 30% tax credit, you can get a $6,000 credit toward your taxes.

What did the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 do for energy tax credits?

One of the Inflation Reduction Act’s main goals was to address climate change by extending several tax provisions that expired at the end of 2021 or were slated to be reduced. Now, not only have many of these tax credits been extended by a decade or more; many have been expanded to provide more financial impact. As a result, these energy tax credits will likely shift Americans’ spending for several years to come.

What energy tax credits are available to claim?

Several energy tax credits are available to individual and commercial taxpayers including credits for buildings, automobiles, and clean energy production. Claiming them may come with certain requirements, so we cover the high-level details of each credit below.

Building Credits

Residential Clean Energy (RCE) Tax Credit

Originally called the Residential Energy Efficient Product (REEP) credit, this credit is available for qualified equipment placed in homes before 2035, including:

  • Solar electric equipment
  • Solar water heating equipment
  • Fuel cell equipment (principal residence only and limited to $500 per 0.5 kilowatt)
  • Small wind energy equipment
  • Geothermal heat pump equipment
  • Battery storage technology equipment (beginning in 2023)

For property placed in service from 2022 through 2032, the Residential Clean Energy credit rate is 30% of the equipment cost including installation, and changes to 26% for 2033, and 22% for 2034. After 2034, the RCE credit won't be available.

Energy Efficient Home Improvement Credit (EEHIC)

The Nonbusiness Energy Property tax credit expired at the end of 2021. The Inflation Reduction Act extended, expanded, and renamed the credit to the Energy Efficient Home Improvement Credit (EEHIC).

The revamped credit offers a maximum value of $1,200 per year from 2023 through 2032 and can go toward investments like qualified energy efficiency improvements made to domestic residences. Such examples include qualified exterior windows, doors and skylights, and building envelope components.

Separately, under a different $2,000 per year limit, the credit covers the equipment cost and installation of new energy-intensive appliances like heat pumps and heat pump water heaters, biomass stoves and boilers.

Lastly, as part of the $1,200 credit maximum per year, it can cover up to $150 per year for the cost of performing a home energy audit to identify areas of energy efficiency improvement in your home.

Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC)

This tax credit applies to new solar, alternative energy or storage equipment installed by businesses on residential or commercial property. Qualifying equipment installed in 2020 and 2021 are eligible for the previous investment tax credit rate of 26% while projects installed in 2022 through 2033 can receive a 30% tax credit with certain credit adjustments for meeting labor or other requirements. The base tax credit will decrease to 26% of the installed equipment cost in 2033 and to 22% for systems installed in 2034. Afterward, the credit is set to expire. There's no limit to the amount of credit you can claim so long as the equipment qualifies for the credit.

Energy Efficient New Homes Tax Credit for Home Builders

The Energy Efficient New Homes Tax Credit for Home Builders covers certain types of investments or activities for new homes. The credit has existed since 2006 and expired at the end of 2021 before being extended through the end of 2022 under the previous rules and being further extended and modified starting in 2023.

For single-family, multi-family, or manufactured homes acquired on or after January 1, 2023, the base-level tax credit will be specifically tied to ENERGY STAR certification. The credits are available in the following amounts by house type:

    • Single-family new homes: $2,500 available for ENERGY STAR certified homes
    • Manufactured homes: $2,500 available for ENERGY STAR certified homes
    • Multi-family homes: $500 available for ENERGY STAR certified multi family units

TurboTax Tip:

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 extended many energy tax credits beyond 2032, often with expanded benefits, including credits for building improvements, automobiles, and clean energy production.

Automobile Tax Credits

Clean Vehicle Credit

The Inflation Reduction Act changed the Qualified Plug-In Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit to the Clean Vehicle Credit and added a new final North America assembly requirement for qualifying vehicles purchased on or after August 17, 2022. You may still have an opportunity to qualify for the previous Qualified Plug-In Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit rules. If you purchased or entered into a written binding contract to purchase a vehicle that meets the prior requirements from January 1, 2022, through August 16, 2022, you generally can claim the old credit.

The Clean Vehicle Credit expanded eligible vehicles to include “clean” vehicles, meaning no longer just electric vehicles qualify. Now, other technologies can qualify as well, such as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles or plug-in hybrids with at least 7 kilowatt hours of battery capacity. There aren’t manufacturer-specific quantity limits as there were under the previous credit.

The Treasury Department has announced additional information on key tax provisions of the Clean Vehicle Credit related to critical minerals and battery components requirements for qualifying electric vehicles. Current law states that beginning with tax year 2023, in addition to the North America final assembly requirement, the former $7,500 credit is broken into two credits worth up to $3,750 each. The credit is for a Clean Vehicle and the amount claimed is based on two parts:

  • Critical minerals requirements
  • Battery components requirements

In addition, the vehicle's manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) can't exceed:

  • $80,000 for vans, sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks
  • $55,000 for other vehicles

The credit has certain income limitations. Your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) needs to be below these amounts in the current or prior year:

  • $300,000 if filing jointly as a married couple
  • $225,000 if filing as head of household
  • $150,000 for all other filers

Starting in 2024, you may also elect to take the Clean Vehicle Credit as a discount at the point of purchase instead of waiting to claim it on your tax return the following year when you prepare your tax return. The credit ends on December 31, 2032.

Used Clean Vehicle Credit

The Inflation Reduction Act introduced another tax credit to incentivize the purchase of previously-owned clean vehicles for tax years 2023 through 2032. Qualified buyers can get this credit equal to 30% of the sale price up to a maximum of $4,000.

To qualify for the Used Clean Vehicle Credit, you have to purchase it from a licensed dealer and it needs to meet certain requirements. Some of these include:

  • Have a sale price of $25,000 or less
  • Have a model year at least 2 years earlier than the year purchased (for example, in 2023 the model year has to be 2021 or earlier) and the price has to be $25,000 or less
  • Not have been previously transferred after August 16, 2022, to a qualified buyer

Like the Clean Vehicle Credit, you can’t receive the Used Clean Vehicle Credit if your MAGI is too high. Specifically, you won’t receive the credit if your MAGI isn’t less than these thresholds in either the current or the preceding tax year:

  • $150,000 for married filing Jointly taxpayers
  • $112,500 for head of household
  • $75,000 for all other filers

Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Tax Credit

Prior to passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, this tax credit expired at the end of 2021. The law revived this credit through December 2032, though changed the rules for claiming it.

If you install electric vehicle charging infrastructure at your home or your business and it meets certain labor and construction requirements required by the credit, you can still benefit up to 30% of the total cost of the equipment and installation. The limit on the amount of this credit you can claim as a business has been increased from $30,000 to $100,000 per property item installed and $1,000 for individuals. Further, the type of equipment that you can claim this credit for expands to additional technology not previously covered by the old credit, such as bidirectional charging equipment.

Commercial Clean Vehicle Tax Credit

The Inflation Reduction Act also adds a new general business credit to be used toward qualifying commercial-use clean vehicles acquired after December 31, 2022. The commercial-use credit is awarded per vehicle to the lesser of:

  • 15% of the vehicle’s cost basis (or 30% for vehicles not powered by a gasoline or diesel engine), or
  • The incremental cost of the vehicle over the cost of a comparable vehicle powered solely by a gasoline or diesel engine

The incremental cost of any qualified commercial clean vehicle is an amount equal to the excess of the purchase price for the vehicle over the price of a comparable vehicle.

Further, qualifying vehicles must be depreciable property and made by qualified manufacturers. Qualified commercial fuel cell vehicles are also eligible for the credit.

The maximum credit per vehicle is $7,500 for vehicles with gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) of less than 14,000 pounds, or $40,000 for heavier vehicles. The credit expires after December 31, 2032.

Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit (PTC)

Another energy tax credit offered by the federal government to incentivize renewable energy comes from the Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit. This tax credit allows wind energy developers of both land-based and offshore projects to claim a federal income tax credit for every kilowatt-hour of energy sold to an unrelated party for the 10 years following the facility being placed into service.

The tax credit, which previously expired at the end of 2021, is extended through 2024 to pay 2.6 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first year of electricity generation from qualifying facilities. Starting in 2025, the production tax credit will convert this energy tax credit into emissions-based, technology-neutral tax credits. It'll begin phasing out in the future when greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector fall at least 75% below 2022 levels or 2032, whichever is later.

Saving energy while saving money

Energy tax credits work to lower the effective cost of ownership, installation or operation of certain types of technologies and improvements deemed important by the government. These tax credits can lower the cost dollar for dollar for individuals and businesses, incentivizing people both to save money and lessen the impact on the environment. With recent extensions and expansions of several energy tax credits alongside the introduction of new ones, taxpayers can see significant savings from choosing to invest in these priorities.

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The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

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  • Audit Support Guarantee – Individual Returns: If you receive an audit letter from the IRS or State Department of Revenue based on your 2023 TurboTax individual tax return, we will provide one-on-one question-and-answer support with a tax professional, if requested through our Audit Report Center, for audited individual returns filed with TurboTax Desktop for the current 2023 tax year and, for individual, non-business returns, for the past two tax years (2021, 2022). Audit support is informational only. We will not represent you before the IRS or state tax authority or provide legal advice. If we are not able to connect you to one of our tax professionals, we will refund the applicable TurboTax federal and/or state license purchase price you paid. This guarantee is good for the lifetime of your personal, individual tax return, which Intuit defines as seven years from the date you filed it with TurboTax Desktop. Excludes TurboTax Desktop Business returns. Additional terms and limitations apply. See License Agreement for details.

  • Satisfaction Guarantee/ 60-Day Money Back Guarantee: If you're not completely satisfied with TurboTax Desktop, go to refundrequest.intuit.com within 60 days of purchase and follow the process listed to submit a refund request. You must return this product using your license code or order number and dated receipt.

TurboTax Desktop Business Returns:

  • 100% Accurate Calculations Guarantee – Business Returns: If you pay an IRS or state penalty or interest because of a TurboTax calculation error, we’ll pay you the penalty and interest. Excludes payment plans. You are responsible for paying any additional tax liability you may owe. Additional terms and limitations apply. See License Agreement for details.

  • Maximum Tax Savings Guarantee – Business Returns: If you get a smaller tax due (or larger business tax refund) from another tax preparation method using the same data, TurboTax will refund the applicable TurboTax Business Desktop license purchase price you paid. Additional terms and limitations apply. See License Agreement for details.

  • Satisfaction Guarantee/ 60-Day Money Back Guarantee: If you're not completely satisfied with TurboTax Desktop, go to refundrequest.intuit.com within 60 days of purchase and follow the process listed to submit a refund request. You must return this product using your license code or order number and dated receipt.

TURBOTAX DESKTOP

  • Installation Requirements: Product download, installation and activation requires an Intuit Account and internet connection. Product limited to one account per license code. You must accept the TurboTax License Agreement to use this product. Not for use by paid preparers.

  • TurboTax Desktop Products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal e-file of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees may apply for e-filing state returns. E-file fees may not apply in certain states, check here for details. Savings and price comparison based on anticipated price increase. Software updates and optional online features require internet connectivity.

  • Fastest Refund Possible: Fastest federal tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary. The IRS issues more than 9 out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days.

  • Average Refund Amount: Sum of $3140 is the average refund American taxpayers received based upon IRS data date ending 02/17/23 and may not reflect actual refund amount received.

  • TurboTax Product Support: Customer service and product support hours and options vary by time of year.

  • #1 Best Selling Tax Software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2022 TurboTax products.

  • Deduct From Your Federal or State Refund (if applicable): A $40 Refund Processing Service fee may apply to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.

  • Data Import: Imports financial data from participating companies; Requires Intuit Account. Quicken and QuickBooks import not available with TurboTax installed on a Mac. Imports from Quicken (2021 and higher) and QuickBooks Desktop (2021 and higher); both Windows only. Quicken import not available for TurboTax Desktop Business. Quicken products provided by Quicken Inc., Quicken import subject to change.

  • Audit Defense: Audit Defense is a third-party add-on service provided, for a fee, by TaxResources, Inc., dba Tax Audit. See Membership Agreements at https://turbotax.intuit.com/corp/softwarelicense/ for service terms and conditions.

All features, services, support, prices, offers, terms and conditions are subject to change without notice.

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