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REAL ESTATE

How Renewable Energy Could Help Lower Your Home Energy Bills – and Help You Save on Your Taxes

There are a lot of good reasons for making your home more energy-efficient - especially when it comes to your federal taxes. Those upgrades make you eligible for the Residential Energy Credit that will not only help lower your energy bills and reduce your carbon footprint but lower your tax burden as well.

The Renewable Energy Tax Credit can help lower your tax bill 

This year, taxpayers can once again claim the Residential Energy Credit on their federal tax return. It’s a fairly generous credit, but be warned, it’s only available for another two years. 

For the 2020 tax year, the Residential Energy Credit offers taxpayers up to 26% of the purchase and installation cost for solar, wind, and geothermal equipment in their principal residence as well as a second home. Best of all, there is no limit on the amount of the credit you can take for this equipment. However, the residential credit decreases to 22% for the 2021 tax year. As of now, the credit is scheduled to end on December 31, 2021. 

Fuel-cell equipment is also eligible for a credit, but that must be installed in your principal residence. There’s also a limit to the tax credit you can take for fuel cells. The maximum credit is calculated as $1,000 for each kilowatt of power generated. So, a fuel cell that generates 3.5 kilowatts, for instance, would qualify for a $3,500 tax credit. 

You can claim this credit using Form 5695. But, it’s important to note that the tax credit is limited to how much you owe in taxes. So, while you cannot get a refund claiming the Energy Credit, you can carry the balance of the credit forward to the next tax year. 

Qualifying for the Renewable Energy Tax Credit 

In order to claim the Residential Energy Credit, you must buy and install specific renewable energy equipment in your primary residence or second home. 

  • Solar panels. The panels must be used to generate electricity for your home.
  • Solar-powered water heaters. This qualifies if half of your home’s water heating capacity is solar and the heated water is used in your home. You cannot claim solar heaters used for swimming pools or hot tubs.
  • Wind turbines. You can claim turbines that generate up to 100 kilowatts for your home.
  • Geothermal heat pumps. Claim these pumps if they meet federal Energy Star guidelines.
  • Fuel cells. Qualifying cells rely on a renewable resource, usually hydrogen, to generate at least 0.5 kilowatts of power for your home.
Tip/Help

For the 2020 tax year, the Residential Energy Credit offers taxpayers up to 26% of the purchase and installation cost for solar, wind, and geothermal equipment in their principal residence as well as a second home.

Nonbusiness Energy Property Tax Credit extended 2018 through 2020 

Prior to the 2018 tax year, homeowners could have been eligible for the Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit. As of December 20, 2019, the credit has been extended retroactive for tax years 2018 and 2019 and good for 2020.

This credit allows taxpayers to claim a credit of 10% for the cost of upgrading to qualified energy-efficient improvements to their homes. The credit for energy-efficient upgrades was limited to a lifetime maximum of $500, including up to $200 for windows, $50 for a furnace circulating fan, and $150 for a furnace or boiler. This included home insulation, exterior doors and windows, and certain types of roofing materials. 

Taxpayers can also claim a credit up to $300 for residential energy property costs, which included electric heat pumps; central air conditioning; water heaters, furnaces, or boilers fueled by natural gas, propane, or oil; and stoves that use biomass fuel.

The Nonbusiness Energy Credit is limited to a lifetime total credit of $500.  This means any credit taken in prior years for any of the improvements eligible for the credit reduces the $500 total.  This credit is also nonrefundable. 

Keep an eye on your taxes 

Tax laws change all the time, both federal and state. Working with a Tax Pro that is knowledgeable about the latest tax laws, including new or expiring credits and deductions, is a great way to make sure you’re getting everything that you deserve.

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