The federal business energy investment tax credit available under 26 USC § 48 was expanded significantly by the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 (H.R. 1424), enacted in October 2008. This law extended the duration — by eight years — of the existing credits for solar energy, fuel cells and microturbines; increased the credit amount for fuel cells; established new credits for small wind-energy systems, geothermal heat pumps, and combined heat and power (CHP) systems; allowed utilities to use the credits; and allowed taxpayers to take the credit against the alternative minimum tax (AMT), subject to certain limitations. The credit was further expanded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, enacted in February 2009.
Applicable Sectors: Commercial, Industrial, Utility, Agricultural
For Solar PV systems placed in service on or before December 31, 2016* the credit is equal to 30% of expenditures, with no maximum credit. Eligible solar energy property includes equipment that uses solar energy to generate electricity, to heat or cool (or provide hot water for use in) a structure, or to provide solar process heat. Hybrid solar lighting systems, which use solar energy to illuminate the inside of a structure using fiber-optic distributed sunlight, are eligible. Passive solar systems and solar pool-heating systems are not eligible.
In general, the original use of the equipment must begin with the taxpayer, or the system must be constructed by the taxpayer. The equipment must also meet any performance and quality standards in effect at the time the equipment is acquired. The energy property must be operational in the year in which the credit is first taken.
Significantly, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 repealed a previous restriction on the use of the credit for eligible projects also supported by “subsidized energy financing.”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.
* A number of changes to this credit are scheduled to take effect for systems placed in service after December 31, 2016. The credit for equipment that uses solar energy to generate electricity, to heat or cool (or provide hot water for use in) a structure, or to provide solar process heat will decrease from 30% to 10%. The credit for geothermal heat pumps, hybrid solar lighting, small wind, fuel cells, microturbines, and combined heat and power systems will expire. The credit amount for equipment which uses geothermal energy to produce electricity will remain at 10%.