On December 2, 2017, the Senate approved its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Senate Bill includes the base erosion and anti-abuse tax, a new tax intended to apply to companies that significantly reduce their US tax liability by making cross-border payments to affiliates. Given its potential to disrupt the financing of renewable energy projects, taxpayers in the renewable energy sector have been paying close attention to its developments.

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Changes to the energy credits proposed in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act could impact the eligibility of renewable energy projects that had been relying on the guidance previously issued by the Internal Revenue Service.

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President Trump released his budget proposal for the 2018 FY on May 23, 2017, expanding on the budget blueprint he released in March. The budget proposal and blueprint reiterate the President’s tax reform proposals to lower the business tax rate and to eliminate special interest tax breaks. They also provide for significant changes in energy policy including: restarting the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, reinstating collection of the Nuclear Waste Fund fee and eliminating DOE research and development programs.

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As discussed in our post on April 7, US Congress extended the Production Tax Credit (PTC) under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 45 and the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) under IRC Section 48 in December 2015, but failed to include extensions for certain types of renewable energy property, including fuel cell power plants, stationary microturbine power plants, small wind energy property, combined heat and power system property, and geothermal heat pump property. Some congressional leaders had stated that the omission was an oversight that would be addressed in 2016.

In March, President Barack Obama signed an extension of certain Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs and revenue provisions through July 15, 2016. This legislation was apparently crafted with an intentionally short timeframe to allow inclusion of the omitted PTC and ITC provisions in long-term FAA reauthorization legislation.  However, Senate Finance Committee members have indicated that the long-term FAA legislation will not include energy tax incentives. According to Tax Analysts, Senate Finance Committee member John Thune (R-SD) recently indicated that the extenders will not make it into the FAA reauthorization bill. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) also said that the most likely vehicle for energy tax incentives would be an end-of-the-year tax bill.

As discussed in our post on March 16, the Congressional extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 45 and the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) under IRC Section 48 in December 2015 failed to include extensions for certain types of renewable energy property, including fuel cell power plants, stationary microturbine power plants, small wind energy property, combined heat and power system property, and geothermal heat pump property. Congressional leaders have stated that the omission was an oversight that would be addressed in 2016.

On March 30, 2016, President Barack Obama signed into law the Airway and Airport Extension Act of 2016 (H.R. 4721) (the Act), which extends certain Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs and revenue provisions only through July 15, 2016. Expiring in less than four months, the FAA extension was apparently crafted with an intentionally short timeframe to allow inclusion of the omitted PTC and ITC provisions in long-term FAA reauthorization legislation that will likely follow this summer.  Accordingly, while the Act does not directly address the energy tax provisions omitted from last year’s extenders package, experts hope that it paves the way to addressing the omission in a few months.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-WY) has said that he hopes to introduce a long-term FAA bill addressing the omitted energy tax credit extenders after the Senate returns this week. House Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady (R-TX) has expressed opposition to attaching energy credit tax extenders to the FAA reauthorization legislation. As developments occur, we will update this blog.

Renewable Energy Industry Seeks Additional Energy Credit Clarifications

On December 18, 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (H.R. 2029) (the Act). The Act includes multi-year extensions of the Production Tax Credit (the PTC) under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 45 and the Investment Tax Credit (the ITC) under IRC Section 48 for wind and solar projects—both of which are gradually phased out. The Act, however, did not extend the ITC for other types of renewable energy property, including fuel cell power plants, stationary microturbine power plants, small wind energy property, combined heat and power system property, and geothermal heat pump property. Read further discussion of the Act’s extension of renewable energy tax incentives. Continue Reading President Obama Signs Consolidated Appropriations Act

President Obama’s recently released budget proposal for the 2017 fiscal year repeats many of his past energy-related tax proposals, including a permanent extension of the renewable energy production tax credit and a provision making it refundable. Making the production tax credit permanent and refundable signals the administration’s continued strong support for renewable energy. This On the Subject summarizes the key energy-related tax provisions contained in the budget proposal and detailed further in the US Department of the Treasury’s general explanation of the proposal.

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On December 18, 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (H.R. 2029) (the Act), which included welcomed extensions to a number of energy tax incentives. The legislation includes multi-year extensions of the Section 45 Production Tax Credit (the PTC) and the Section 48 Investment Tax Credit (the ITC) for wind and solar projects tempered by a gradual phase out of the total credit available.

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On Tuesday, December 16, 2014, the U.S. Senate passed the tax extenders bill by a vote of 76-16, extending a number of energy tax incentives through the end of the year.  The Senate’s passage of H.R. 5771 followed the U.S. House of Representatives’ (House) approval earlier this month (see our post on December 8), and the bill is expected to be signed into law by President Obama as early as this week.

The $42 billion bill includes extensions through the end of the year of nearly $10 billion in energy tax incentives, including the New Market Tax Credit in Section 45D, the Production Tax Credit in Section 45 (the PTC), and the bonus depreciation rules in Section 168(k).

Many were disappointed that some of the tax incentives – including the PTC – were extended retroactively only through the end of the year, meaning that tax payers have just a few weeks left to take advantage of them. There would have been far more certainty for companies looking to invest in renewable energy projects if the tax incentives were extended for one or more years beyond the end of 2014.  Several lawmakers suggested that the two week extension was better than nothing, but the short extension period means that Congress has merely punted the need for greater tax reform in this area into 2015.  As it stands, the energy tax incentives extended by this bill will have expired by the time Congress returns to Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2015, following its winter break.  That means that Congress may be in the same place again next year under pressure to pass a year-end bill – instead of focusing on more comprehensive reform and a possible phase-out of the PTC.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives (House) overwhelming approved a $42 billion tax extenders bill.  The bill, H.R. 5771, includes extensions of nearly $10 billion in energy tax incentives through the end of 2014.  But by failing to extend the tax incentives beyond the end of this year, the House bill has been criticized by industry advocates that wanted stability and predictability as to the future availability of the incentives.

The bill extends the New Market Tax Credit in Section 45D, the Production Tax Credit in Section 45, the Research Credit in Section 41, the bonus depreciation rules in Section 168(k), the Energy Property Credit for individuals in Section 25C, the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Credit in Section 40(a)(4), the incentives for biodiesel and renewable diesel in Section 40A, the New Energy Efficient Home Credit in Section 45L, the Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction in Section 179D, the special rule for sales or dispositions to implement FERC or state electric restructuring policy for qualified electric utilities in Section 451 and the excise tax credits relating to certain fuels in Section 6427.

By extending the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and other incentives retroactively only through the end of this year, the House bill provides little reassurance to companies in the industry who are looking to invest in renewable energy products, given the long lead time required to get projects off the ground.  With only three weeks left before the PTC expires again, the extension is unlikely to provide much incentive to invest in new renewables projects.  The House Ways and Means Committee expects the extension to cost around $9.6 billion over the next 10 years.  But industry insiders argue that the expiration of the PTC last year and the resulting uncertainty has caused a drop off in new renewables (non-solar) projects, and have called for a multi-year extension that would phase out the PTC over three years.  This kind of phase-out generated bipartisan support in a Senate bill last month, but the bill ultimately died after the White House threatened to veto it over other matters.  Although some in the Senate are still pushing for a two-year extenders bill, it is currently expected that the extenders package will ultimately be passed in the form adopted by the House.