January 28, 2014

If you are eco-conscious, you probably sort your disposables for recycling, wash your clothes in cold water, carry reusable shopping bags to the grocery or perform other environmentally-friendly actions. But did you know that you may also be eligible to receive tax credits and deductions from Uncle Sam? While tax breaks for going green are not nearly as generous as they were in past years, it is still worth your while to investigate possible savings from the IRS for projects that you plan to carry out anyway.

Make Home Improvements

Did you recently replace one or more drafty windows or reinforce the insulation on your home? If so, you may qualify for tax credits through the Non-Business Energy Property Credit, which covers 10 percent of costs associated with purchasing and installing qualified energy-efficient insulation, doors, metal and asphalt roofs and windows.

The credit is also available for non-solar heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, biomass stoves and non-solar water heaters. A maximum of $200 in credits can be claimed for window installation, with a $500 lifetime limit in total credits. The credit can only be applied to improvements made on your existing primary residence located within the United States. The Non-Business Energy Property Credit expired at end of December, 2013; new projects will not qualify unless Congress votes to renew the credit.

Update to Energy Efficient Appliances

 

Have you resorted to showering with cold water to save money on your utility bills? Perhaps you should consider installing an energy-efficient solar hot water heater.The Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit covers up to 30 percent of the cost of purchasing and installing a solar hot water heater, along with costs associated with solar electricity arrays, residential wind turbines and geothermal heat pumps.

There is no upper limit to the amount of tax credits you can claim, and the credit is applicable to new and existing residential construction. You can also claim up to 30 percent of the cost of installing residential fuel cells and microturbine systems up to a limit of $500 under the program. The Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit remains in effect through the end of December 2016, so you have plenty of time to make those improvements.

Optima Tax Relief has more about how you can get credit for making your home energy efficient in this post.

Green Up Your Ride

If you missed out on the recent Cash for Clunkers program, you may still have a chance to collect tax breaks for buying an energy-efficient car – as long as the car you buy is either a plug-in hybrid or an all-electric model. The Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit (IRC 30D) applies to four-wheeled passenger vehicles acquired by individuals and businesses after December 31, 2009. Some two-wheeled and three-wheeled vehicles acquired after December 31, 2011 and before January 1, 2014 also qualify for the program. Tax credits for non-plug-in hybrids, diesel-powered vehicles and alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) expired at the end of 2010.

You may claim $2,500 for all eligible vehicles. In addition, for a vehicle that draws what the IRS calls “propulsion energy” from a battery with a capacity of at least 5 kilowatt hours, you may claim an additional $417. You may claim an additional $417 for each additional kilowatt hour capacity up to a maximum credit of $7,500.

The IRS will begin phasing out the credit over a one-year period beginning with the calendar quarter following a calendar quarter during which a specific manufacturer sells at least 200,000 qualifying vehicles in the United States. (The clock starts after December 31, 2009). During the first two quarters of the phase-out period, individuals who purchase qualifying vehicles may claim 50 percent of the applicable credit; during the second two quarters of the phase-out period, taxpayers may claim 25 percent of the applicable credit. No credit may be claimed after the end of the phase-out period.

As of January 2014, there is little danger of sales triggering the phase-out stage of the Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit program. The most popular plug-in electric car, the Chevrolet Volt, has sold approximately 56,000 units since it was introduced to the consumer market in December 2010. (Chevy representatives made an announcement at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show that mass production of the all-electric Volt has been suspended; instead, the car will be reclassified as a “niche” model targeted for specific audiences, much like the iconic Corvette.) The Ford Focus electric model had sold just under 21,000 cumulative units in the United States as of November 2013, according to the IRS website.

How to Claim Your Tax Breaks

To claim tax breaks for home improvements and energy-efficient appliances, file Form 5695, Residential Energy Credits.

To claim tax breaks under the Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit program, individual taxpayers submit Form 8936, Qualified Plug-In Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit along with their federal income tax returns. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the “stimulus”), individuals who purchase qualified vehicles during 2010 or later may apply the credit toward payment of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), if they are subject to the tax. To claim the credit for vehicles purchased for business use, submit Form 3800, General Business Credit.

Going green doesn’t reap the same rewards it used to, but there’s still money on the table if you’ve made any of these changes. Don’t let these tax credits fall through the cracks!

Photos: Flickr, Al.com