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Senate Democrats Propose Overhaul of Clean Energy Incentives

US Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the Clean Energy for America Act (the Act), along with two dozen Democratic co-sponsors, on April 21, 2021. The Act will likely be a starting point for the Biden administration tax proposals intended to limit carbon emissions. The Act would change the current system for incentives for the renewable energy industry to a technology-neutral approach for generation that is carbon free or has net negative carbon emissions. The Act would also provide tax incentives for qualifying improvements in transmission assets and stand-alone energy storage with the aim of improving reliability of the transmission grid. Instead of requiring that taxpayers who qualify for the clean energy incentives have current or prior tax liabilities, the Act would create a new direct pay option allowing for refunds of the tax credits.

The Act would replace the current renewable energy incentives with a new clean electricity production and investment credit, which would allow taxpayers to choose between a 30% investment tax credit (ITC) or a production tax credit (PTC) equal to 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour. The credit would apply to new construction of and certain improvements to existing facilities with zero or net negative carbon emissions placed in service after December 31, 2022. The Act would phase out the current system of credits for specific technologies. To provide time for transition relief and for coordination between the US Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Act extends current expiring clean energy provisions through December 31, 2022.

The Secretary of Treasury, in consultation with the Administrator of the EPA shall establish greenhouse gas emissions rates for types or categories of facilities which qualify for the credits. To incentivize additional emissions reductions from existing fossil fuel power plants and industrial sources, the Section 45Q tax credit would be extended until the power and industrial sectors meet emissions goals. The Act would modify the qualifying capture thresholds to require that a minimum percentage of emissions are captured. Once certain emissions targets are met—namely, a reduction in emissions for the electric power sector to 75% below 2021 levels—the incentives will phase out over five years.

Qualifying transmission grid improvements are also eligible for the 30% ITC including standalone energy storage property. Storage technologies are not required to be co-located with power plants and include any technologies that can receive, store and provide electricity or energy for conversion to electricity. Transmission property includes transmission lines of 275 kilovolts (kv) or higher, plus any necessary ancillary equipment. Regulated utilities have the option to opt-out of tax normalization requirements for purposes of the grid improvement credit. However, the Act does not include a similar option to opt-out of the tax normalization provisions for other types of qualifying facilities, such as solar or wind projects.

Under the Act, investments qualifying for the clean emission investment credit, grid credit or energy storage property in qualifying low-income areas qualify for higher credit rates. The Act also includes new provisions requiring [...]

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IRS Extends Deadline for ITC and PTC Projects

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 [...]

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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.

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IRS Issues Additional Guidance on When Construction Begins for Purposes of Production Tax Credit, Investment Tax Credit

by Gale E. Chan, Martha Groves Pugh, Philip Tingle, Madeline Chiampou Tully and Amy E. Drake

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued additional guidance relating to when construction begins with respect to wind and other qualified facilities for purposes of the production tax credit and investment tax credit. This guidance focuses on the continuous construction and continuous efforts tests and the effects of ownership transfers of a facility after construction has begun.

To read the full article, click here.

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Italy: Government Extends Scope of Application of “Robin Hood Tax”

by Carsten Steinhauer

Law Decree no. 69 of 21 June 2013 (theDecree), published in the Official Gazette on 21 June 2013  would expand significantly the application of the “Robin Hood Tax” on electricity production companies, including renewable energy companies (solar, wind and biomass) originally exempt from the tax, by lowering the turnover and taxable income thresholds.

The “Robin Hood Tax” was originally introduced by Section 81, Paragraph 16 of Law Decree no. 112 of 2008, converted by Law no. 133 of 2008.  It provided for a 6.5 per cent increase of the corporate income tax rate (IRES) payable by electricity production companies other than renewables with annual gross revenues exceeding Euro 25 million.

Earlier, Law Decree no. 138 of 2011, converted by Law no. 148 of 14 September 2011, eliminated the exemption for renewable energy companies and reduced the annual gross revenue threshold to Euro 10 million, provided the electricity production company had a taxable income of Euro 1 million.

The new Decree further reduces the gross revenue and taxable income thresholds so that the “Robin Hood Tax” would apply to any energy production company, including renewable energy companies, with:

  • gross revenues in the preceding year of more than Euro 3 million
  • taxable income for the same year of more than Euro 300,000

The additional tax only applies to legal entities that are organised as corporations and are therefore taxable pursuant to Article 73 of the Consolidated Income Tax Code, but does not apply to special purpose vehicles (SPVs) that are organised as limited partnerships.

If confirmed by the Italian Parliament, these changes will increase the IRES for a great number of renewable energy production companies that initially had been exempt from the “Robin Hood Tax.”   In order to become definite, the Decree—which was enacted by the Italian Government—must be converted into law by the Italian Parliament.  The timeline for conversion is 60 days, i.e., 20 August 2013, and the Italian Parliament is entitled to make amendments to the Decree.  Provided that the Italian Parliament confirms the current wording of Section 5, Paragraph 1 of the Decree, renewable energy companies that exceed the new turnover and income thresholds in 2014 will have to pay the increased IRES of 34 per cent, instead of 27.5 per cent.

It is worth noting that the compatibility of the “Robin Hood Tax” with the Italian Constitution has been challenged and an action is currently pending before the Constitutional Court.  In particular, the “Robin Hood Tax” would seem to be in breach of the principles of equality and contribution pursuant to economic capabilities.  The Constitutional Court has not yet scheduled a date for the hearing so that it is impossible to foresee when a decision will be made.

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IRS Updates Notice Determining When Construction Begins for Purposes of the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit

by Gale Chan, Martha Groves Pugh and Philip Tingle

Last week, we reported that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2013-29 (Notice) to to provide guidance on eligibility for the production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC). On April 25, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) updated the Notice. Under the IRS’s additional guidance, a binding contract that has a liquidated damages provision that limits damages to at least 5 percent of the total contract price will not be treated as limiting damages to a specified amount. 

When the Notice was first issued on April 15, 2013, it provided that a contract is binding only if the contract did not limit damages to a specified amount, including the use of a liquidated damages provision. This language differed from the treatment of a binding contract under the guidance issued by the Department of Treasury with respect to the grant program under section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 because the Section 1603 Grant program, like the bonus depreciation regulations, provided that a liquidated damages provision that limited damages to an amount that was equal to at least 5 percent of the total contract price would not be treated as limiting damages in a contract to a specified amount. As updated, the Notice is now in line with the definition of binding contract under the guidance issued with respect to the Section 1603 Grant as well as the IRS’s own regulations regarding a binding contract in the bonus depreciation regulations.

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Bipartisan Group of Legislators Reintroduces Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act

by Ari Peskoe

On April 24, four Republican legislators and four Democratic legislators reintroduced the Master Limited Partnership Parity Act in the House and Senate. Master Limited Partnerships (MLP) provide tax advantages to energy project developers but are currently limited under the Tax Code to resources subject to depletion, such as oil and gas, and transportation and storage of certain fuels. The Act would expand the definition of qualified projects to include a range of clean energy resources and infrastructure projects. 

An MLP is a business structure that is taxed as a partnership, but whose ownership interests can be traded like corporate stock on a market. Congress enacted legislation in 1987 that allowed entities that earn at least 90 percent of their income from “qualified” sources to be treated as MLPs. Qualifying income includes “income and gains derived from the exploration, development, mining or production, processing, refining, transportation (including pipelines transporting gas, oil, or products thereof), or the marketing of any mineral or natural resource.” In 2008, Congress expanded the definition of qualifying income to include income from the transportation and storage of certain renewable and alternative fuels, such as ethanol, biodiesel and industrial-source carbon dioxide.

As we reported last June, legislators first introduced the MLP Parity Act last year. The Act would have expanded the definition of qualifying income purposes to include income from wind, biomass, geothermal, solar, municipal solid waste, hydropower, marine and hydrokinetic, fuel cells and combined heat and power projects, as well as certain renewable transportation fuels.  Those bills were referred to the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee but never advanced. The updated MLP Act introduced on April 24, also includes carbon capture and storage, waste heat to power, renewable chemical and energy efficient building projects.    

In public statements, Senators Coon (D-DE) and Murkowski (R-AK), two of the Act’s sponsors, have emphasized that the MLP Parity Act attempts to “level the playing field” by providing renewable energy projects with the same tax benefits that fossil fuel projects have enjoyed. Although the rhetoric should be appealing to both sides of the aisle and the Act is backed by a range of industry groups that would benefit from the legislation, it’s fate in Congress is unclear. 

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IRS Determines When “Construction Begins” for Purposes of Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit

by Gale Chan, Martha Groves Pugh and Philip Tingle

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2013-29 to provide guidance on eligibility for the production tax credit (PTC) and the investment tax credit (ITC). Under the most recent extension of the PTC and ITC, enacted by Congress on January 1, 2013, a renewable energy facility must begin construction before January 1, 2014 to be eligible for the PTC or ITC.  The IRS’ Notice largely follows the guidance that Treasury provided with respect to Section 1603 grants and provides that a taxpayer may establish that construction has begun either by demonstrating that physical work of a significant nature has begun or by satisfying a five percent safe harbor.  Key differences between the Section 1603 Guidance and the IRS’ Notice on the PTC and ITC are highlighted below.

Under the IRS’ Notice, physical work of a significant nature must be with respect to tangible property that is integral to the facility.  Thus, property integral to the production of electricity is included but not property used for the transmission of electricity.  Power conditioning equipment, such as a transformer, is an integral part of the facility.

Either on-site or off-site work can be sufficient to demonstrate the beginning of construction.  If work is performed off-site, the work can be performed either by the taxpayer or by another person for the taxpayer pursuant to a binding written contract.  A contract is binding only if it is enforceable under local law against the taxpayer (or a predecessor), and the contract does not limit damages to a specified amount.  This definition is a departure from the 1603 Guidance, which determined that a contract is binding so long as the liquidated damages provision in the contract does not limit damages to less than five percent of the total contract price.

A taxpayer must maintain a continuous program of construction of a significant nature.  The IRS’ Notice lists detailed examples, not provided in the 1603 Guidance, of allowable disruptions that are beyond the control of the taxpayer, including: severe weather, licensing and permitting delays, delays requested in writing by a government agency, financing delays of less than six months, and supply shortages.p>

Alternatively, like the 1603 Guidance, the IRS’ Notice includes a safe harbor that provides eligibility for the PTC or ITC if the taxpayer pays or incurs five percent or more of the total costs of the facility.  All costs properly included in the depreciable basis of the facility are taken into account.  However, the cost of land or any property not integral to the facility is not included. 

Unlike the 1603 Guidance, the IRS’ Notice imposes a continuous efforts requirement for the safe harbor and includes a taxpayer favorable provision related to cost overruns.  Facts and circumstances indicating continuous efforts include paying or incurring additional amounts included in the total cost of the facility, obtaining permits, and entering into binding written contracts for components or future work.  With respect to a single project [...]

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Sequestration to Result in Across-the-Board 8.7 Percent Reduction of 1603 Grant Payments

by Melissa Dorn

The United States Department of the Treasury released a notification on March 4, 2013 clarifying how sequestration will affect payments awarded under Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009 for specified energy property in lieu of tax credits. Treasury stated that it will reduce the amount of each final award issued from March 1, 2013 through September 30, 2013 by 8.7 percent, regardless of when the application was received by Treasury.  The 8.7 percent sequestration rate is subject to change following September 30, 2013.

For more information please contact your regular McDermott lawyer of Phil Tingle at +1 305 347 6536 or

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Key Energy Tax Provisions Included in ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Legislation

by Gale Chan, Madeline Chiampou, Martha Pugh, Philip Tingle and Brian Levy

On January 1, 2013, Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 to address the tax rate hikes and expiring tax incentives to avert the “fiscal cliff.”  President Obama signed the legislation into law on January 2, 2013.  The legislation included important provisions to businesses, including extending the production tax credit for wind energy facilities through 2013 and requiring that a qualified facility begin construction (rather than be placed in service) before January 1, 2014, to claim the credit.

To read the full article, click here.

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