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Key Takeaways | Tax Credit Bonuses for Low-Income and Coal, Oil and Gas Energy Communities

On September 13, McDermott Partners Heather Cooper and Philip Tingle provided a detailed overview of the bonus tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 for projects satisfying low-income thresholds or built-in energy communities with ties to coal, oil and natural gas, including the technical requirements for each bonus and how these new rules will impact deal pipeline, planning and negotiations.

Below are key takeaways from the discussion:

1. There is an annual capacity limitation of 1.8 gigawatts direct current for low-income bonuses. It’s unknown whether this capacity will be allocated to projects on a first-come, first-served basis or shared amongst all applicants annually in the event capacity is reached. The Internal Revenue Service must provide guidance on this point within 180 days of enactment.

2. Projects that fail to satisfy relevant low-income/poverty metrics are subject to recapture (with a one-time opportunity to cure). It remains to be seen whether circumstances outside taxpayer control (e.g., local economic improvement) will trigger recapture.

3. At present, it is difficult to transact on the energy community bonus-based projects located in brownfield or MSA/non-MSA because of a lack of guidance. Projects located in census tracts with retired coal fired EGUs or coal mines, however, can be transacted based on the statute alone.

4. Projects will require researching, tracking and targeting areas where coal mines closed, coal fired EGUs retired and (after relevant guidance is released) brownfields are located.

To access past webinars in the Navigating the New Energy Landscape series and to begin receiving Energy updates, including invitations to the webinar series, please click here.




Key Takeaways | A Deep Dive into Wage and Apprentice, Domestic Content, Transfer and Direct Pay

On August 31, McDermott Partners Heather Cooper and Philip Tingle provided a detailed review of the wage and apprentice, domestic content, transferability and direct provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. They discussed the technical requirements for each of the new sections and offered insight into how these new rules will impact the deal pipeline, planning and negotiations.

Below are key takeaways from the discussion:

  1. The extension and expansion of the existing ITC and PTC by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) come with additional requirements, a critical component of which is the all-new wage and apprenticeship requirement (W+A) for 1MW or greater energy projects. Because of both the newness of the rules and the need for additional IRS guidance, the beginning construction rules are going to have continued relevance while taxpayers wait for the market to sort out how it will address W+A compliance.
  2. For projects beginning construction after the W+A guidance, taxpayers must consider how they will monitor W+A compliance, in particular with respect to wages paid to and labor provided by employees of contractors and subcontractors. Taxpayers should consider what types of covenants and representations they will require of contractors, how to draft indemnities to allocate the risk of default, costs to cure failures to meet W+A, and in the worst case the loss of 80% of the ITC or PTC.
  3. There is limited direct pay available to tax-exempts, government entities, Indian tribes, and the like, except for the credits for clean hydrogen, carbon capture and advanced manufacturing credits—which are available to non-exempt taxpayers.
  4. As an alternative to direct pay, taxpayers may elect to transfer their credits for cash. Those proceeds are tax-free, generally with no cap, phase-out, limitation or exception. For partnerships, the election is made at the partnership level, which creates planning complexities on who will control elections and make indemnities, and how remaining partnership items will be taxed and allocated. Taxpayers will need to plan around such situations, and transferability likely won’t simplify the financing of renewable projects.

To access past webinars in the Navigating the New Energy Landscape series and to begin receiving Energy updates, including invitations to the webinar series, please click here.




Key Takeaways | In the Room Where It Happened

On August 25, McDermott Will & Emery kicked off its latest 10-part weekly webinar series focused on navigating the new energy landscape following the enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (the Act)—the largest and most important climate action in US history.

During the first webinar, McDermott Partners Carl Fleming and Edward Zaelke hosted Greg Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), for a discussion on the conversations leading up to this historic legislation and its future impact on the renewable energy industry.

Below are key takeaways from the discussion:

1. The Act represents a major win for the renewable energy industry, particularly its extension of tax credits up to a 10-year (or potentially longer) period, allowing businesses in the energy sector to plan on stable tax platforms for longer than a couple of years—something that is truly unprecedented for the renewables industry. Other major highlights include the introduction of tax credits for energy storage and new technologies, such as hydrogen, programs to encourage domestic manufacturing and the monetization of tax credits. The McDermott Energy & Project Finance team has already seen a spike in standalone energy storage mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity and a heightened interest in financing structures.

2. Of further noteworthy importance is the Act’s introduction of the ability to transfer tax credits. Although the direct pay provisions of the Act were not as broad as hoped for by many, Greg believes that the transferability provisions will have a significant impact on the renewable energy market. In his view, the constraints on transferability are minimal and allow for the monetization of credits without partnership flips or sale-leasebacks, although there may still be a role for these types of transactions. According to Greg, the market will likely see a mix of tax equity structures and other kinds of financing as there is now more latitude as to how to monetize these credits. The Energy & Project Finance team is currently advising on a number of innovative structures to allow clients to capitalize on this new game changer for tax credits.

3. Another notable feature of the Act is the ability to stack credits related to domestic content, energy communities and wage and apprenticeship requirements. Although further regulations and guidance are needed in these areas, it is agreed amongst industry specialists that appropriately stacking these incentives could make renewable energy projects much more lucrative while creating beneficial societal impacts, such as building a domestic workforce and supply chain and transitioning away from fossil fuel-driven economies. The Energy & Project Finance team is working with various clients to narrow down such requirements and to help properly “stack” these credits.

4. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions was a true driving force behind the Act and is a meaningful step toward addressing climate issues. However, the devil will be in the details regarding how the [...]

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Key Takeaways | Renewables Tax Takeaways from the Manchin-Schumer Deal on Taxes, Climate and Energy

On August 1, McDermott Partners Philip Tingle and Heather Cooper hosted a webinar to address the climate bill, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which unexpectedly came back on the table on July 27. Click here for a summary of the bill.

Below are key takeaways from the presentation:

  • Last week’s surprise Congressional bill incorporates many of the same features we saw in last year’s Build Back Better bill, including an extension of the existing PTC and ITC, to be replaced by a technology-neutral PTC and ITC available for any energy producing projects or storage technology with net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Those new credits would remain in place without phase down until at least 2032.
  • If enacted, taxpayers need to consider how the proposal impacts their pipelines. Taxpayers may no longer need to worry about “begin construction” for purposes of locking in the tax credit phase-down under the current law, but will still need to think about “begin construction” rules vis a vis the new wage and apprentice requirements, and also think about placed-in-service dates for purposes of eligibility for the new domestic content bonus and transferability provisions.
  • The bill doesn’t offer the much-desired direct pay feature for most projects, but offers a transfer optionality that could dramatically change how facilities are financed. Developers will need to consider how the transfer mechanism impacts timing of getting paid for the credits, stranded depreciation, tax basis step-up valuations, and the discount rate for selling the credits, and whether it still makes sense in some cases to bring in tax equity.
  • There are lots of different incentives scattered throughout the bill and market players will need to carefully assess how these incentives may refocus how and where they build projects. For instance, new credits for storage and hydrogen, and significant credit boosts for projects in low-income, coal and other traditional energy communities.



Key Takeaways | Legislative Update on Renewable Energy Tax Incentives

On November 17, McDermott Partners Philip Tingle and Heather Cooper were joined by Bill Parsons, COO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), for a discussion on recent legislative activity regarding renewable energy tax incentives and how it will affect current tax credits as well as those in the center of the renewables space.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

1. Negotiations surrounding the Build Back Better Act and progress regarding the substance of the bill have been moving at a rapid pace. Despite some uncertainties, the hope is that something will be passed before year-end—and the tax credits component is likely to look very similar to the current proposal.

2. A shift in thinking has taken place in US Congress, specifically, the clean energy tax regime is now seen as a credible driver in achieving the Biden administration’s decarbonization and climate goals.

3. Industry participants are assessing whether the direct pay component of the Build Back Better Act will dramatically change the tax equity market. Several factors will determine how direct pay will affect said market, including the timing of payments, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scrutiny, availability of depreciation and tax basis step-ups, permissiveness of waivers, congressional oversight and the proposed minimum book tax.

To access past webinars in this series and to begin receiving Energy updates, including invitations to the webinar series, please click here.




Key Takeaways | The Latest Merger Control Developments under the Biden Administration

The Biden administration has placed an emphasis on antitrust enforcement that will create meaningful implications for future transactions, as well as those already consummated. In this webinar, hosted by McDermott Will & Emery partners Kevin Brophy and Lesli Esposito and associate Matt Evola, learn who the new leaders at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and US Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division are and how their approach to antitrust enforcement is already changing merger review process.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar: 1. Antitrust Agency Personnel Changes. The FTC and the DOJ Antitrust Division have recently seen leadership changes. At the FTC, US President Joe Biden appointed Lina Khan to chair, and she’s already making headlines for her efforts to “modernize” merger assessments. Chairwoman Khan has indicated that she wants the FTC to focus on addressing the “rampant consolidation” that has resulted in dominant firms across markets. She has also advocated for a holistic approach to identifying harms, a focus on power asymmetries and a need for the agency to be forward-looking. The changes she has implemented have significantly impacted merger review. At the DOJ, President Biden appointed Jonathan Kanter, who has not yet taken office but is also expected to take an aggressive approach to enforcement, to lead the Antitrust Division. 2. President Biden’s Executive Order on Antitrust. In a July executive order, President Biden indicated that antitrust enforcement would be a top priority for his administration. The order calls for a whole-of-government approach, encompassing 72 initiatives directed at more than 12 separate agencies. The order directed the FTC and the DOJ to vigorously enforce the antitrust laws by toughening the review of future mergers and revisiting anticompetitive mergers that went unchallenged. 3. Policy Changes with Practical Implications. The FTC has been especially active in announcing new policies and procedures that will likely extend the merger review timeline and open previously consummated transactions to further scrutiny. Among these changes are:

  • The suspension of early termination for the 30-day Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 (HSR Act) waiting period: Early termination has always been discretionary, but the FTC’s Premerger Notification Office has suspended early termination in 2021 with no resumption in sight.
  • Warning letters sent at the conclusion of the HSR Act waiting period: These “close at your own risk” letters indicate that while the waiting period has concluded, the agencies may challenge the transaction post-closing.
  • Increased requests for “pull-and-refiles”: This process restarts the HSR Act waiting period, granting agencies an additional 30 days to review a transaction, and are being requested at an increasing rate.
  • Procedural and timing changes aligning the FTC with the DOJ: Changes made at the FTC are bringing the agencies into alignment on certain procedures for second requests, and these changes are likely to extend the timeline required for responding to second requests.

To access past [...]

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Key Takeaways | How Solar Industry Leaders are Addressing and Overcoming the US–China Trade War

The US-China trade war has caused a significant impact on the solar industry, and that impact is expected to grow. In this webinar, learn how solar industry leaders are handling the effects of the US–China trade war and how they are preparing for the future.

Our first webinar of this series featured McDermott Will & Emery partner Carl Fleming, Pine Gate Renewables Director of Regulatory Affairs Brett White, Vice President of Construction James Froelicher and Assistant General Counsel Jess Cheney.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

1. Withholding Release Order. The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a withholding release order (WRO) against Hoshine Silicon Industry Co. Ltd., a company located in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region wherein all silica-based products made by Hoshine and its subsidiaries are to be detained at all US ports of entry. Because of this WRO, manufacturers have been moving outside of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in order to avoid being subject to it.

There have been numerous detentions of silica-based products at multiple ports across the United States, and it is expected that the detention of materials will continue. In order to combat this, suppliers and industry leaders are presenting documentation to show that the materials are not being produced from forced labor or Hoshine and its subsidiaries.

Although the WRO was expected to cause significant disruption, it is not having as large of an impact as feared because many suppliers had already left the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

2. Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Petition. Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Petitions filed in August 2021 requested that the US Department of Commerce (DOC) include additional tariffs against solar panel imports from Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The petitioners requested additional tariffs ranging from 50% – 250%. The DOC has yet to decide whether to investigate based on the petition, however, the impacts of the petition are already being felt with disruptions to the supply chain. If the DOC were to investigate, the solar industry would likely see a severe slowing of projects in 2022 and 2023 as neither suppliers nor developers are willing to bear the economic risk of the potential tariffs.

3. The DOC and the Biden Administration. The DOC and the Biden administration are expected to make decisions regarding tariffs, as well as anti-dumping and countervailing duties, that will directly affect the solar materials supply chain.

The Biden administration hopes to increase the domestic supply of solar materials, however, domestic manufacturers currently only produce approximately 25% of the overall demand for solar materials. As a result, the solar industry cannot immediately divert to purchasing solar materials from domestic manufacturers as the supply simply is not available. As an incentive to increase domestic manufacturing, solar industry leaders hope tax credits can be offered to companies that manufacture solar materials.

The Biden administration is expected to decide whether the 18% tariff on imported solar panels that [...]

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Carbon Capture, Utilization and Sequestration – An Industry Primed for Explosive Growth? A Summary of the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Report

On June 30, 2021, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) delivered a Carbon Capture, Utilization and Sequestration (CCUS) report to Congress in accordance with the Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies (USE IT) Act passed in December 2020. The CEQ report highlights an inventory of existing permitting requirements for CCUS deployment and identifies best practices for advancing the efficient, orderly and responsible development of CCUS projects at an increased rate.

The Biden Administration is “committed to accelerating the responsible development and deployment of CCUS to make it a widely available, increasing cost-effective, and rapidly scalable climate solution across all industry sectors.” CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory recognized that in order “[t]o avoid the worst impacts of climate change and reach President Biden’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, we need to safely develop and deploy technologies that keep carbon pollution from entering the air and remove pollution from the air…The report … outlines a framework for how the U.S. can accelerate carbon capture technologies and projects in a way that benefits all communities.” Development of CCUS projects and related infrastructure will be encouraged and favorably looked upon by the Biden Administration as a demonstrable example of how it’s seeking to combat climate change.

CCUS – OPPORTUNITY OF THE FUTURE FOR MIDSTREAM COMPANIES?

CCUS refers to a set of technologies that remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the emissions of point sources or the atmosphere and permanently sequesters them. In addition to removing CO2, carbon capture technology has the potential to remove other types of pollution, such as sulfur oxides. According to leading scientists and experts, removal of CO2 from the air is essential to addressing the climate crisis and alleviating the most severe impacts of climate change. Beyond the impact carbon capture technology will have on the climate crisis, CCUS will continue to have a valuable role in the US economy as the technology continues to evolve.

The CEQ report makes it extremely clear that any effective nationwide rollout of CCUS is heavily dependent on a massive buildout of pipelines for CO2 transportation infrastructure. Currently, there are approximately 45 CCUS facilities in operation or in development and 5,200 miles of dedicated CO2 pipelines. The number of CCUS facilities and the breadth of dedicated CO2 pipelines will need to expand at a rapid rate if CCUS is to become an effective tool for meeting net-zero emission by 2050.

Establishing CCUS at scale is going to be heavily dependent on—and presents a great opportunity for—midstream pipeline developers. Despite the 5,200 miles of CO2 pipelines and the potential to employ “orphaned” pipeline networks previously used by the oil and gas industry once remediated, there is no current network of CO2 pipelines at a scale large enough for permanent carbon sequestration across all industrial sectors. Thus, to achieve climate goals set by the Biden Administration, a significant amount of CO2 pipelines will need to be developed. According to the CEQ report, expansion of CO2 pipeline infrastructure in “the near term is [...]

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IRS Provides Relief on Begin Construction Continuity Requirements

Yesterday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2021-41 (the Notice), providing relief for continuity requirements for the investment tax credit (ITC) under Section 48 and the production tax credit (PTC) under Section 45.

The applicable tax rate for the ITC and PTC is based on the year a project “begins construction.” Under existing IRS guidance, projects are treated as having begun construction by either satisfying the Physical Work Test or the Five Percent Safe Harbor. Both methods require a taxpayer to make continuous progress toward completion of the facility once construction has begun (Continuity Requirement). The IRS previously provided a Continuity Safe Harbor, whereby the Continuity Requirement will be deemed met if the project is placed in service within a certain number of years from beginning construction. For most projects, the Continuity Safe Harbor was previously four years and was extended to five years last year for projects that otherwise began construction in 2016 or 2017. Under the existing guidance, if the Continuity Safe Harbor is not met, a taxpayer can satisfy the Continuity Requirement by meeting the Continuous Construction Test (in the case of the Physical Work Test) or the Continuous Efforts Test (in the case of the Five Percent Safe Harbor). The Continuous Construction Test and Continuous Efforts Test are both demonstrated through facts and circumstances.

In the Notice, the IRS further extended the Continuity Safe Harbor to six years for projects that otherwise began construction in 2016 through 2019 and to five years for projects that otherwise began construction in 2020. In other words, the Continuity Safe Harbor will be satisfied if a taxpayer places the project in service by the end of a calendar year that is no more than five or six years (as applicable) after the calendar year during which construction of the project otherwise began.

The Notice further provides that for a project that does not satisfy the Continuity Safe Harbor, the taxpayer can satisfy either the Continuous Efforts Test or Continuous Construction Test (regardless of whether the taxpayer is relying on the Physical Work Test or the Five Percent Safe Harbor). Under previous guidance, a taxpayer relying on the Physical Work Test was all but certain to fail the Continuous Construction Test, which seems to require regular physical work from the time construction begins. The Continuous Efforts Test appears to encompass more activities than the Continuous Construction Test and may be easier to satisfy for some taxpayers.

The Notice clarifies that the relief was in response to the fact that “regional, national, or global circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic have continued to cause delays in the development of certain facilities eligible for the PTC and the ITC. These extraordinary delays have adversely affected the ability of many taxpayers to place facilities in service in time to meet the Continuity Safe Harbor.”

The Notice will be welcome relief to many taxpayers who have struggled with project delays in recent years.




Key Takeaways | The Energy Market in 2021: Legislative Update on Renewable Energy Tax Incentive

The energy market has undergone significant change in the past 12 months, with even more on the horizon. Our webinar series explores how these changes have shaped—and will continue to impact—the energy industry, including discussions of what’s to come.

Our latest webinar featured McDermott partners Philip Tingle and Heather Cooper and Carol Wuerffel, Senior Director, Tax at Ameren.

Below are key takeaways from the webinar:

  1. Tech Neutral Credit. The Clean Energy for America Act introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) would replace existing renewable energy incentives with technology-neutral tax investment and production credits for facilities with zero net or net negative carbon emissions. In coordination with the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of the Treasury would be responsible for promulgating regulations specifying qualifying technologies. The credit would be provided to partnerships and not individual partners for renewable investments made by pass-through entities.
  2. Direct Pay. In early 2021, House Democrats reintroduced the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act. In addition to extending and expanding the existing investment tax credit (ITC) and production tax credit (PTC), the GREEN Act would permit taxpayers to elect to claim 85% of the expanded ITC and PTC amounts as a refundable credit, even if they do not have sufficient tax liabilities to otherwise use the credits. The Wyden bill likewise would offer a direct pay election but without any discount against the tax credit. The timing of payments under the refundable credit may impact whether developers will shift from current tax-equity structures. If a developer must file a return and wait to resolve any examinations or other ongoing proceedings to receive the benefit, the refundability could be of limited value.
  3. Net Zero 2050. US President Joe Biden has set an aggressive climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 and to net zero by 2050. Developers and utilities need additional certainty around the scheduled phaseouts in the ITC and PTC in order to build renewable resources to meet climate goals. While the White House has yet to back a specific package of renewable tax incentives, the proposals introduced by congressional Democrats are a likely starting place for negotiations.

To access past webinars in this series and to begin receiving Energy updates, including invitations to the webinar series, please click here.




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