What is a tax credit?
A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the amount of income tax you would otherwise owe. For example, claiming a $1,000 federal tax credit reduces your federal income taxes due by $1,000. The federal tax credit is sometimes referred to as an Investment Tax Credit, or ITC, though is different from the ITC offered to businesses that own solar systems.
What is the federal solar tax credit?
The federal residential solar energy credit is a tax credit that can be claimed on federal income taxes for a percentage of the cost of a solar PV system paid for by the taxpayer. (Other types of renewable energy are also eligible for similar credits but are beyond the scope of this guidance.)
The installation of the system must be complete during the tax year.
Solar PV systems installed in 2020 and 2021 are eligible for a 26% tax credit. In August 2022, Congress passed an extension of the ITC, raising it to 30% for the installation of which was between 2022-2032. (Systems installed on or before December 31, 2019 were also eligible for a 30% tax credit.) It will decrease to 26% for systems installed in 2033 and to 22% for systems installed in 2034. The tax credit expires starting in 2035 unless Congress renews it.
There is no maximum amount that can be claimed.
Am I eligible to claim the federal solar tax credit?
You might be eligible for this tax credit if you meet the following criteria:
- Your solar PV system was installed between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2034.
- The solar PV system is located at a residence of yours in the United States.
- You own the solar PV system (i.e., you purchased it with cash or through financing but you are neither leasing the system nor nor paying a solar company to purchase the electricity generated by the system).
- Or, you purchased an interest in an off-site community solar project, if the electricity generated is credited against, and does not exceed, your home’s electricity consumption. Notes: the IRS issued a statement (see link above) allowing a particular taxpayer to claim a tax credit for purchasing an interest in an off-site community solar project. However, this document, known as a private letter ruling or PLR, may not be relied on as precedent by other taxpayers. Also, you would not qualify if you only purchase the electricity from a community solar project.
- The solar PV system is new or being used for the first time. The credit can only be claimed on the “original installation” of the solar equipment.
What expenses are included?
The following expenses are included:
- Solar PV panels or PV cells (including those used to power an attic fan, but not the fan itself)
- Contractor labor costs for onsite preparation, assembly, or original installation, including permitting fees, inspection costs, and developer fees
- Balance-of-system equipment, including wiring, inverters, and mounting equipment
- Energy storage devices that have a capacity rating of 3 kilowatt-hours (kWh) or greater (for systems installed after December 31, 2022). If the storage is installed in a subsequent tax year to when the solar energy system is installed it is still eligible, however, the energy storage devices are still subject to the installation date requirements). Note: A private letter ruling may not be relied on as precedent by other taxpayers.
- Sales taxes on eligible expenses