Congress has some unfinished business on alternative energy policy, which may provide unusual legislative opportunities in an election year. While tax credits for wind and solar power received long-term extensions in the year-end omnibus legislation enacted at the end of 2015, other types of alternative energy were left out — reports have suggested unintentionally — spurring some in Congress to seek a remedy in 2016. Additionally, the Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) initiated a rulemaking process to further define and clarify the types of property qualifying for the investment tax credit (ITC) under section 48 of the Tax Code. These developments, along with ongoing congressional interest in comprehensive energy policy legislation, could make 2016 a pivotal year for stakeholders in the alternative energy industry.
On January 13, 2015,, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Notice 2015-4, which provides new guidance on the small wind energy project credit under Section 48 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). In particular, the guidance provides that small wind energy projects must meet certain performance and quality standards to qualify for the credit. The official notice is scheduled to be published on January 26 in Internal Revenue Bulletin 2015-4.
Notice 2015-4 provides that Section 48-eligible property must use a wind turbine that has a nameplate capacity of not more than 100 kW and meets the performance and quality standards as set forth in either:
(1) American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard 9.1-2009; or
(2) International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 61400-1, 61400-12, and 61400-11.
Small wind turbines must meet the AWEA or IEC standards that are in effect at the time of acquisition of the turbine.
The manufacturer of the turbine may provide a taxpayer with a certification that the manufacturer’s turbine meets one of the standards listed above, and taxpayers may rely on such certifications when claiming the credit under Section 48. However, manufacturers should be aware that issuing erroneous certifications or failing to satisfy certain documentation requirements could trigger penalties under IRC Section 7206 (fraud and making false statements) or IRC Section 6701 (aiding and abetting an understatement of tax liability).
Notice 2015-4 is effective for small wind energy property acquired or placed in service after January 26, 2015.
On August 8, 2014, the IRS issued Notice 2014-46, which provides guidance on several issues relating to the implementation of recent changes to the renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) under Section 45 of the Tax Code and the energy investment tax credit (ITC) in lieu of the PTC under Section 48. In particular, the Notice addresses the manner in which taxpayers can satisfy the “physical work” test and the effect of various types of transfers of ownership after the construction of a facility has begun. In addition, the Notice modifies the 5% safe harbor test included in previous notices. In light of the issuance of the Notice, the IRS says it will not issue private letter rulings on the topics addressed in the Notice.
The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are considering whether to release a third round of guidance on the production tax credit (PTC) for renewable electricity under Section 45 of the Tax Code and the investment tax credit (ITC) in lieu of the PTC under Section 48. The intent of the guidance would be to further clarify the changes in the PTC/ITC enacted as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) (Pub. L. No. 112-240). Read More