When you see those TV ads for home solar power, you may get the impression that Uncle Sam is going to pick up 30% of your cost and you only have to come up with the other 70%. That is not necessarily the whole picture. True, the federal government has a 30% tax credit for the cost of a qualified solar installation (some states also have solar credits or other incentives). However, the federal credit is non-refundable and can only be used to offset your current tax liability, and any excess carries over to future years as long as the credit still applies in future years. Currently, the credit is allowed through 2021. What this means: You may not get all the credit in the first year as you might have been led to believe or assumed based upon the TV ads.
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If you are considering installing a solar electric system or solar hot water system for your home, there are tax issues you should consider when making your decision.
First of all, there is a very lucrative non-refundable federal tax credit for 30% of the cost of the system with no maximum. So for example, if the solar electric system cost you $20,000, your tax credit would be $6,000. A non-refundable tax credit offsets your tax liability, regular and alternative minimum, dollar for dollar, and any excess is added to any credit allowable in the subsequent year. For example, if your 2015 credit was $6,000 and your 2015 tax liability was $4,000, then $4,000 of the credit would go to pay off your 2015 tax liability and the remaining $2,000 would be added to your 2016 solar credit, if any, and used to reduce your 2016 tax liability. This credit, unless it is extended by Congress, will expire after 2016. Read more