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Saturday, March 4, 2023

Residential Energy Credit Observations & Cautions

picture of home with ratings

First, a policy query: How long should tax incentives be in the law. For example, with the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, Congress extended the residential energy credits of §25C and §25D through 2032 and 2034, respectively. The §25C credit was first added to the law in 1978 (as §44C by the Energy Tax Act of 1978, P.L. 95-618 (11/9/78)).

Section 25C (originally §44C and then §23) lasted through 1985 and lapsed until reinstated and revised in 2005 by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L.109-58 (8/8/05)), with §25D added, effective for 2006 and 2007. Subsequent legislation generally continued to extend these provisions (and sometimes modify them) for one to two years at a time.

So, a residential energy credit existed for 1977 through 1985 and for 2006 through 2032 (2034 for §25D). For more on the history, see Congressional Research Service (CRS), Residential Energy Tax Credits: Overview and Analysis, 4/9/18.

How long should these incentives be in the law? Shouldn't law changes have required new homes to be built with building envelope that is energy efficient and with solar panels? Should a time limit have been given for making older homes energy efficient? Perhaps. Are tax incentives the best way to go forever or should utility companies be incentivized to help customers make improvements?

These credits, particularly §25C, are a bit complex. For example, §25C covers three types of expenditures with details and qualifications for each category. Also, while subtle in the language, you have to read it carefully to know if the expenditure is only for a principal residence you own and use or if it is ok for it to be owned OR used (true for home energy audits), or just has to be a residence (principal or vacation) owned or used (if only has to be used, tenant may claim the credit).

Homeowners should be cautious in using these credits because there are annual limits on, for example, how much you can claim for qualified doors and windows. Spreading the improvements out over a few years can maximize the credit. 

Also, there are both ill-informed and unscrupulous sellers and installers who might mislead taxpayers as to how much credit they will get. Some will encourage those with equity in their home to borrow to pay for the energy efficient items and perhaps a lot more that doesn't generate a credit and might not even be needed. Be cautious and encourage your clients and older family members to be cautious.

For more on these credits, see my 8/21/22 post that also has links to the track changes versions of these credits. These documents also have links to IRS information on the current versions of these credits.

What do you think? 

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