On September 4, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the US Department of the Treasury (Treasury) published in the Federal Register final regulations under section 468A of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code) that address three issues raised by the nuclear electric industry concerning qualified nuclear decommissioning funds (“qualified funds”). These final regulations conclude a many years-long regulation project to clarify the rules relating to decommissioning costs and self-dealing rules. McDermott submitted multiple sets of comments throughout the process, and Marty Pugh provided vital testimony during an IRS hearing on the proposed regulations.
On Thursday, June 11, McDermott partners Phil Tingle, Heather Cooper and Jacob Hollinger were joined by Ken Ditzel, managing director at FTI Consulting, to discuss their insights into the proposed Section 45Q carbon capture and sequestration credit regulations.
The Treasury Department and IRS recently published proposed regulations implementing the Section 45Q carbon capture and sequestration credit. The regulations clarify some questions about the credit, though many questions remain. For further discussion, see our On The Subject.
Below are six key takeaways from this week’s webinar:
- 1. Carbon capture projects are likely to be economically important moving forward. Ken Ditzel estimated there are more than 600 economically viable projects, including both secure geological storage at deep saline formations and enhanced oil recovery projects.
- 2. The proposed regulations provide a compliance pathway for satisfying the reporting requirements. For long-term storage, taxpayers should comply with Subpart RR of the Clean Air Act’s greenhouse gas reporting rule. For enhanced oil recovery projects, taxpayers may choose either Subpart RR or alternative standards developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
- 3. Taxpayers can claim the credit if they utilize the captured carbon for a purpose for which a commercial market exists, instead of storing it. Additional guidance is needed to determine what commercial markets the IRS will recognize and how they will go about making those determinations.
- 4. The proposed regulations offer considerable flexibility to contract with third parties to dispose the captured carbon and to pass the section 45Q credit to the disposing party. Contracts must meet certain procedural requirements, including commercially reasonable terms and not limiting damages to a specified amount.
- 5. If the captured carbon dioxide leaks, the carbon capture tax credit is subject to recapture by the IRS. The taxpayer who claimed the credit bears the recapture liability, but IRS guidance permits indemnities and insurance for credit recapture.
- 6. The partnership allocation revenue procedure issued in February 2020 provides flexibility for the section 45Q credit relative to other tax equity structures, by only requiring 50% non-contingent contributions by an investor member. This may make projects easier to finance, especially in light of the other contracting flexibility in the proposed regulations.
Download the key takeaways here.
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The IRS yesterday released anticipated guidance extending the placed-in-service deadline for the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and Production Tax Credit (PTC). Under Notice 2020-41, the “Continuity Safe Harbor” was extended to five years for any project that otherwise began construction in 2016 or 2017.
As background, the applicable credit rate for the ITC and PTC turns on when a project begins construction. The IRS has issued a series of Notices providing guidance on when a project begins construction for these purposes. Under the guidance, taxpayers can either satisfy the “Five Percent Safe Harbor” or “Physical Work Test”. In addition to requiring certain activities in the year construction begins, both methods include a second prong, requiring certain continuous work until the project is placed in service. The IRS has previously provided the Continuity Safe Harbor, under which a project will be treated as having met the second prong so long as it is placed in service by the end of the fourth year after which construction begins on the project. If the project cannot meet the Continuity Safe Harbor, the taxpayer must satisfy the continuity requirement through facts and circumstances.
In the case of the Five Percent Safe Harbor (which requires continuous efforts), demonstrating facts and circumstances is time-intensive and challenging, and is inherently uncertain. In the case of the Physical Work Test (which requires continuous physical work), demonstrating facts and circumstances is likely impossible across four years, leaving many of these projects economically unviable in the absence of IRS relief.
The new Notice extends the Continuity Safe Harbor by one year – from four years to five years – for any projects that began construction in 2016 or 2017. This is welcomed relief for projects that have experienced delays related to COVID-19. The relief is particularly helpful in that it is a blanket extension for any projects that otherwise began construction in 2016 or 2017, without requiring taxpayers prove that delays were specifically related to COVID-19. If the extension were only available for COVID-19 delays, the relief would have had limited value, as taxpayers would have simply gone from trying to demonstrate facts and circumstances relating to continuous work, to having to demonstrate facts and circumstances relating to the nature of the delays. This blanket relief was particularly important, given the cascading impact of COVID-19 through the economy and the renewables industry – which experienced delays relating to supply chains, and also relating to financing and regulatory issues, among others. The extension of the safe harbor provides needed economic certainty for all of these projects.
Notice 2020-41 also provides relief for projects that intended to satisfy the Five Percent Safe Harbor in late 2019 but where equipment has been delayed. Under the existing guidance, costs are taken into account in 2019 under the Five Percent Safe Harbor if they are paid before December 31, 2019 and the property or services are delivered within 105 days of payment (the “105 Day Rule”). Under the new guidance, if a taxpayer made payment on [...]
Five Takeaways: Navigating President Trump’s Executive Order on US Bulk Power System Electric Equipment
President Trump’s May 1, 2020 Executive Order prohibiting certain transactions involving bulk-power system electric equipment developed, manufactured or supplied by a foreign adversary could have far-reaching implications for both the renewable and conventional power industries. It has also raised a high level of uncertainty and risk while the industry awaits the actual implementation of the Executive Order. This interim period, as well as the breadth of the Executive Order, raises key questions and concerns for sponsors and developers of energy projects, construction contractors and energy project investors. Read our latest On the Subject for more in-depth information.
Yesterday, after the Department of Energy’s stakeholder call, we hosted a webinar that addressed important considerations as to how the Executive Order may impact your business. In particular, our hosts provided a step-by-step framework on navigating the Executive Order based on their prior US Government experience in this area and current “boots on the ground” in Washington, DC on this issue.
COVID-19 and Wind Projects: A Legal and Commercial Checklist for Tax Equity, Debt Financing and Project Documentation
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has severely disrupted the wind market’s supply chain and labor resources, resulting in significant project delay risk. This legal and commercial checklist is a comprehensive practitioner’s guide to help sponsors and borrowers review their tax equity, financing, offtake and material project documents to ensure compliance with obligations, prevent unnecessary default triggers, and manage relationships with banks, tax equity and other stakeholders.
The world is facing a situation unprecedented in modern times with the global spread and impact of COVID-19. Its rapid spread has brought severe disruption and uncertainty to everyone’s personal lives, as well as to the wind, solar and storage industry supply chains, the renewable project financing market, and global markets at large.
While the speed and complexity of the virus make it impossible to know the full effects it will ultimately have on the world, what follows is what we know today about the impact of COVID-19 on the supply chains for solar, energy storage and wind developers, as well as the project finance market.
Treasury and the IRS released initial guidance on the amended Section 45Q carbon oxide sequestration credit on February 19, 2020. Notice 2020-12 and Revenue Procedure 2020-12 provide guidance relating to the beginning of construction and tax equity partnership allocations.
This is the first Section 45Q guidance since Treasury issued a request for comments in Notice 2019-32 last year. That Notice sought input on a number of issues raised by amendments to Section 45Q that expanded the scope and enhanced the amount of the Section 45Q credit pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, P.L. 115-123. The new guidance in Notice 2020-12 and Revenue Procedure 2020-12 is effective March 9, 2020.
The US Senate today passed a package of tax extenders as part of the year-end appropriations act that the US House of Representatives passed on December 17, 2019. President Trump is expected to sign the legislation before the end of the day tomorrow to avoid a government shutdown. The package includes a one-year extension of the production tax credit (PTC) under section 45 for wind and other technologies. It also includes limited extension of other energy tax incentives that were set to expire and a retroactive extension for some credits that had already expired in 2018. Most of the credits will now expire at the end of 2020, setting up the prospect of a broader tax extenders deal during lame duck session after the 2020 election. The bill also included a one-year extension through 2020 of the new markets tax credit under Section 45D at $5 billion.
Extension of Energy Tax Credits
Many energy tax credits and incentives are scheduled to expire or begin to phase out at the end of 2019 or have already expired. The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act will extend the expiration date to the end of 2020 for many credits. The package did not include an extension or expansion of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), disappointing the solar industry. The extenders package also did not include the proposed expansion of the ITC for energy storage technology or the extension of energy credits for offshore wind facilities.
Production Tax Credit
The PTC provides a credit for each kilowatt hour of energy production for qualified renewable energy facilities. The PTC expired for non-wind technologies at the end of 2017, while a reduced credit of 40% was available for wind facilities through the end of 2019, expiring for years 2020 and beyond. As we reported previously in House Passes PTC, NMTC Extension, under the tax extenders package, projects that begin construction in year 2019 are eligible for the 40% credit, and projects that begin construction in 2020 will be eligible for a 60% credit. This potentially leaves taxpayers in a frustrating position to the extent they already took steps to begin construction on a wind project in 2019 to take advantage of the 40% credit in anticipation of its expiration at the end of 2019. Taxpayers seeking the increased 60% PTC for wind projects will need careful planning to ensure any work done in 2019 does not attach to the 2020 project, thus dropping the credit to 40%.
Additionally, the full PTC would be retroactively revived and extended through 2020 for:
- Closed loop biomass
- Open loop biomass
- Geothermal plants
- Landfill gas (municipal solid waste)
- Trash (municipal solid waste)
- Qualified hydropower
- Marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy facilities
Under current law, those technologies are generally only eligible for the PTC to the extent construction began before 2018 (other than certain closed-loop biomass and qualified hydropower technologies, which must be placed in service before 2018). Under the extenders package, those dates would all be extended out to the end [...]
On December 17, 2019, the US House of Representatives passed a year-end fiscal year 2020 spending bill for the federal government that includes a one-year extension of the production tax credit under Section 45 (PTC) for wind and other technologies. The bill would extend the wind PTC for facilities the construction of which begins during 2020 at a rate of 60%. Under current law, the PTC is available at a rate of 100% for wind projects construction of which began before 2017, and the PTC phases down to 80% for projects that began construction during 2017, to 60% for projects that began construction during 2018, and 40% for projects that began construction during 2019. Curiously, the extender bill would leave in place the 40% rate for projects that began construction during 2019 and increase the rate back to 60% for projects that begin construction in 2020. If enacted in this form, this could potentially leave taxpayers in a frustrating position to the extent they already took steps to begin construction on a wind project in 2019 in order to secure PTC-eligibility at the 40% rate in anticipation of the credit’s scheduled expiration next year. The bill would mirror this 60-40-60 pattern for wind projects that elect to take the investment tax credit under Section 48 (ITC) in lieu of the PTC. Under the bill, the wind PTC would expire where construction begins in 2021 or later.
The bill would also retroactively extend the PTC through 2020 for closed-loop biomass, open-loop biomass, geothermal, landfill gas, trash facilities, qualified hydropower, and marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy facilities. Under current law, those technologies are generally only eligible for the PTC to the extent construction began before 2018 (other than certain closed-loop biomass and qualified hydropower technologies, which must be placed in service before 2018).
The bill also includes a one-year extension through 2020 of the new markets tax credit under Section 45D at $5 billion.
As anticipated by the renewables industry, the bill did not include an extension of the ITC, which, in the case of solar, fiber-optic solar, qualified fuel cell, and qualified small wind energy technologies, is set to begin phasing down next year from 30% to 26%.
The tax extenders were included in an amendment to the spending bill, entitled The Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2019.
The bill needs to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by the president by Friday, December 20 to avoid a government shutdown. It is unclear if the bill will receive similar support in the Senate. We will be following developments as they unfold in the coming days.
On June 20, 2019, the United States Court of Federal Claims published its long-awaited opinion in California Ridge Wind Energy, LLC v. United States, No. 14-250 C. The opinion addressed how taxpayers engaging in related party transactions may appropriately determine the cost basis with respect to a wind energy project under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). Central to the case was whether the taxpayer was allowed to include a $50 million development fee paid by a project entity to a related developer in the cost basis of a wind project for purposes of calculating the cash grant under Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009 (Section 1603). Section 1603 allowed taxpayers to take a cash grant in lieu of the production tax credit of up to 30% of the eligible cost basis of a wind project. The eligible cost basis under Section 1603 is determined in the same manner as under Section 45 for purposes of the investment tax credit (ITC). The Justice Department disagreed with the taxpayer’s position that the development fee should be included in the cost basis for calculating the Section 1603 cash grant. The Justice Department argued that the development fee was a “sham.”
The court agreed, and held for the government. The court’s opinion focused on the taxpayer’s failure to provide evidence that the payment of the development fee had “economic substance.” Indeed, the court was troubled that none of the taxpayer’s witnesses could explain what was actually done to earn the $50 million development fee. Other than a three‑page development agreement and the taxpayer’s bank statements identifying the wire transfers for payment of the development fee, which started and ended with the same entity, the court found that the taxpayer provided no other factual evidence to support the payment of the fee. Indeed, the court pointed to the taxpayer’s trial testimony, which the court found lacked the specificity needed to support the development fee. Because the taxpayer failed to carry its burden of proof and persuasion, the court concluded that the taxpayer was not entitled to include the $50 million development fee in the cost basis of the wind project for purposes of computing the Section 1603 cash grant.
Importantly, the court did not, however, rule that a development fee paid to a related party is not permitted to be included in the cost basis of a facility for purposes of determining the Section 1603 cash grant. Instead, the court simply ruled that the taxpayer failed to provide it with sufficient proof that in substance the taxpayer performed development services for which a development fee is appropriately considered part of the cost basis of a facility for purposes of determining the Section 1603 cash grant.
Practice Point: In court, the plaintiff has the burden of proving its entitlement to the relief sought. Before filing a case, it’s best to make sure that you have all of the evidence you need to prove your case. Without substantial and [...]