Get federal tax credits for energy efficiency

It's hard to believe, but tax time is just around the corner. If you're like most taxpayers, you try to minimize what you owe Uncle Sam by taking all the deductions you're entitled to. If you made efficiency upgrades to your home last year, make sure you apply for credits when you fill out your federal taxes, or you could be leaving money on the table.

Alternative Energy for the Win

Many aspects of the federal energy tax credit program have already been curtailed, with credits from most common upgrades having expired at the end of 2013 (but it’s not too late to claim the money if you haven’t already — see below). However, there are some credits still active for alternative energy installations. You are eligible for a kickback of up to 30 percent of purchase and installation price come tax time if you made any of the following additions to your existing home or new construction in 2014:

  • Geothermal heat pumps
  • Small wind turbines
  • Solar energy systems
  • Fuel cells

And it’s not just the purchase price of the equipment -- your credit can cover the labor to set up and install your new efficiency devices as well. Qualifying homes must be located in the United States. Heat pumps, wind turbines and solar all are valid for your principle or secondary residence, with no limit on the dollar amount. Fuel cells have more restrictions — they qualify for primary residences only, and have an upper limit of $500 per .5KW of power capacity. Renters are not eligible for the tax credits.

If you didn’t act this year, you have until December 31, 2016 to purchase and install your new equipment and still qualify for the credit.

It’s Not Too Late

And there’s more good news. The NonBusiness Energy Property Credit is still available on the taxes you fill out this year — provided you made the improvements in 2013 or earlier. If you made qualifying upgrades to your HVAC equipment, insulation, roof, water heater, windows, doors or biomass stove, you can claim up to $500 in credits on up to 10 percent of the costs. These credits are limited to upgrades made on existing homes, and each specific installation has a cap:

  • $300 for biomass stoves
  • $50 for advanced main air circulating fans
  • $300 for air source heat pumps
  • $300 for central air conditioning
  • $150 for gas, propane, or oil boilers or furnaces
  • $300 for gas, propane, oil, or electric heat pump water-heaters
  • $500 for doors
  • $500 for skylights
  • $200 windows
  • $500 for insulation
  • $500 for metal or asphalt roofing

Installation costs cannot be included for doors, skylights, windows, insulation or roofing. Also note that the $500 limit is over the lifetime of the Property Credit, so if you already claimed $300 in past years, you can only get a maximum of $200 on this year’s tax return, even if you spent much more than that.

How to Claim Your Credits

To claim your credits, fill out Form 5695 with the appropriate information about your expenditures and include it with your other tax paperwork. Don’t forget to hold on to all your receipts and manufacturer’s certification statements so you can back up your claim if the IRS comes knocking on your door.

It’s a win-win situation — you get your tax credit, you can reduce or even eliminate monthly fuel costs, and you can sleep easy knowing that you are doing your part to help the environment by decreasing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels. If you are considering a major alternative energy installation on your property, contact an expert today to advise you on what your options are and how to get started.

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