Conserve energy and your bank account with the solar tax credit


Sid installed a solar energy system to his home in California in 2020. While his sole focus was to better the environment, he didn’t realize there’s a tax benefit to making this renewable improvement.

That’s right! Did you know a solar tax credit for renewable energy upgrades is available to taxpayers? To encourage people to use solar power, the federal tax code offers a special credit for residences with solar power. Learn more about the benefits of this federal tax credit and how to claim it on your taxes in this post.

Federal solar tax credit benefits

solar energy tax creditThe federal solar tax credit is also referred to as the residential energy efficient property credit, or “REEP.” Aside from the environmental benefits of solar power – like reducing pollution, avoiding fossil fuels, and reducing your family’s carbon footprint – solar energy also has a tax benefit.

The downside is that it’s expensive to install. Thankfully, the federal solar tax credit can offset some of the expense.

Generally, if you install renewable energy equipment on your property, you qualify for a percentage credit off the total cost of your solar equipment.

Solar tax credit 2021 details

If you’re wondering what the solar tax credit is in 2020 or 2021, come no further. The amount is determined by when you installed the equipment.

You can claim:

  • 30% for solar energy systems placed in service between 2017 and 2019
  • 26% for solar energy systems placed in service between 2020 and 2022
  • 22% for solar energy systems placed in service in 2023

*This tax credit will expire after December 31, 2023.

If your solar tax credit was larger than income tax due, you can’t use the residual money to get money back from the IRS. But you can carry the credit over and use it the following tax year.

As a reminder, tax credits work like this: you can offset your overall taxable income by subtracting the amount from your tax liability. Learn more about tax credits.

Solar energy tax credit qualifications

Not all property qualifies for the federal solar tax credit. To be eligible, your property must be a cooperative apartment, condominium, house, houseboat, mobile home, or manufactured home approved by the Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards.

You must also have qualified solar equipment. Here is the list of qualified solar equipment and other property that is eligible for the REEP:

  • Solar-powered units that create heated water or electricity
  • Geothermal heat pumps
  • Wind turbines
  • Fuel cell property
  • Solar-electric collecting roofs and roof products
  • Solar power storage equipment
  • Solar power installation

Please note, leased solar systems don’t qualify for the solar tax credit.

What about solar equipment on rental property you own?

While you can’t claim the federal solar tax credit on rental properties you own and rent out for 80% or more of the year, you can claim it for properties you live in for part of the year. The percentage you claim is reduced based on the months you live there.

For example, if you install qualifying solar equipment at a property you live in for half the year in 2021, you can deduct 50% of the 26% credit for the total cost of the solar equipment. So, if your solar system cost $20,000 in 2021, the full credit is $5,200, but you can only claim half of that – so the amount is $2,600.

How to claim the solar tax credit on your taxes

Use Part 1 of Form 5695 to determine your credit amount. There are two parts on a Form 5695.

Part 1:

The first part of the form is for the REEP. Enter the amount you spent on qualifying solar energy materials or installation or other qualifying equipment. On line 14, you should enter your credit limit, which is determined by your tax liability. On line 15, follow the instructions to enter the credit amount on Form 1040.

Part 2:

The second part of Form 5695 is for the nonbusiness energy property credit. This section is for the costs of heating and cooling-related home improvements you made to your property, such as new windows and insulation. Line 30 will be the number you add to your Form 1040. The maximum lifetime nonbusiness energy property credit is $500. Learn more about energy efficient tax credits.

More help with the solar panel tax credit

Now, back to Sid. Because he originally didn’t realize there were federal tax benefits to using solar energy, he didn’t claim the solar tax credit on his 2020 tax return. Luckily, he can amend his return (for up to three years) to make sure he claims this valuable tax credit.  If the credit is more than his 2020 tax liability he can claim the solar tax credit balance in 2021.

And, he didn’t go at it alone. He got the support of a tax pro at H&R Block. In fact, with many ways to file your taxes, our pros maximize the tax deductions and credits you are entitled to optimize your tax outcome.

Make an appointment.

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