In recent years, Congress has used the Tax Code to encourage individuals to make energy-efficient improvements to their homes. The credit is very popular. The Treasury Department estimates that more than 6.8 million individuals claimed over $5.8 billion in residential energy tax credits in 2009.

The nonrefundable Code Sec. 25C tax credit was originally enacted on a temporary basis. Most recently, Congress renewed and modified the residential energy property tax credit in the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 (2010 Tax Relief Act) through 2011.

2011 Rules
Under current law, the Code Sec. 25 tax credit provides a 10 percent credit for the purchase of qualified energy efficiency improvements to existing homes. A qualified energy efficiency improvement is any energy efficiency building envelope component:

  • Meeting or exceeding criteria for the component established by the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code or, in the case of certain windows, skylights and doors, and metal roofs, meeting Energy Star requirements
  • Installed in or on a dwelling located in the United States and owned and used by the taxpayer as the taxpayer’s principal residence
  • Original use of which commences with the taxpayer
  • The qualified energy-efficient improvement reasonably can be expected to remain in use for at least five years

Examples of energy-efficient improvements include, but are not limited to, qualified electric heat pumps, certain furnaces, metal roofs meeting certain criteria, certain types of exterior windows and doors. In some cases, only the cost of the energy-efficient improvement is eligible for the Code Sec. 25C tax credit; installation costs are ineligible. For example, the costs associated with installing a qualified electric heat pump are eligible for the Code Sec. 25C tax credit but costs associated with installing a qualified metal roof are ineligible.

Lifetime Limits
The 2010 Tax Relief Act set the maximum Code Sec. 25C credit allowable is $500 over the lifetime of the taxpayer. The $500 amount must be reduced by the aggregate amount of previously allowed credits the taxpayer received in 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010. This provision can complicate planning for the Code Sec. 25C credit because Congress made changes to the credit before and after 2009, particularly regarding the lifetime limit.

Let’s look at an example. Amanda qualified for a $400 Code Sec. 25C tax credit in 2006. The maximum credit allowable is $500 over her lifetime. This means that Amanda can get an additional Code Sec. 25C tax credit of up to $100 in 2011.

Under the 2010 Tax Relief Act, no more than $200 of the Code Sec. 25C credit may be attributable to expenditures on exterior windows and skylights. Taxpayers must reduce the $200 amount by the aggregate amount of previously allowed credits for windows and skylights that the taxpayer received in 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010.

Dollar Limits
Additionally, certain dollar limitations apply to various improvements. For property placed in service in 2011, the dollar limits are $300 for any item of qualified energy-efficient property; $50 for an advanced main air circulating fan; and $150 for any qualified natural gas, propane or oil furnace or hot water boiler.

Energy Standards
Moreover, the qualified energy-efficient property must meet standards set by the by the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The 2010 Tax Relief Act treats exterior windows, skylights and exterior doors are qualified energy efficiency improvements if they meet the Energy Star Program requirements in 2011.

Certification Statements
Many energy-efficient improvements come with a manufacturer’s certification statement. The statement indicates if the improvement qualifies for the tax credit. It is not necessary to submit a copy of the manufacturer’s certification statement with the individual’s tax return, but taxpayers should keep a copy of the certification statement for their records.

Another Credit
The Code Sec. 25D tax credit also is intended to reward taxpayers for making certain energy-efficient improvements. The Code Sec. 25C tax credit covers items such as geothermal heat pumps, solar water heaters, solar panels, and small wind energy systems. Many of the rules for the Code Sec. 25D tax credit are similar to the Code Sec. 25C tax credit but there are some differences. For example, the Code Sec. 25D credit has no lifetime limit. If you are considering making one of these improvements, please contact our office for more details about this tax credit.

Form 5695
Taxpayers claim the Code Sec. 25C tax credit on Form 5695, Residential Energy Credits. The IRS has identified some abuses of the Code Sec. 25C tax credit and it intends to make revisions to Form 5695 to curb fraudulent claims and verify eligibility for the credit. These changes are expected to appear on the Form 5695 that taxpayers will file in 2012.

If you have any questions about the Code Sec. 25C tax credit, please contact our office.