How Does IRS Verify Solar Credit: Understanding the Process

In this article, you will grasp how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) verifies solar credit claims by homeowners.

Key takeaways:

  • Solar tax credit offers 26% credit until 2022, then drops to 22% in 2023.
  • To qualify, solar PV system must be installed at a residence or business in the US.
  • Tax credit is only available to those who own their solar energy system.
  • Excess tax credit can be carried forward to the next tax year.
  • IRS Form 5695 must be filed to claim the solar tax credit.

Solar Tax Credits: A Brief Overview

how does irs verify solar credit understanding the process

The federal solar tax credit, also known as the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), currently allows homeowners and commercial property owners to deduct a percentage of the cost of installing a solar energy system from their federal tax liability. This incentive is designed to promote renewable energy adoption by reducing the upfront capital costs associated with solar installations.

Key points about the solar tax credit include:

  • Credit Value: The ITC offers a 26% credit for solar systems installed between 2020 and 2022, which drops to 22% in 2023 before expiring for residential installations in 2024, unless renewed by Congress.
  • Eligibility: To qualify, the solar PV system must be installed at a primary or secondary residence or at a business location in the United States.
  • Ownership Requirement: The tax credit is only available to those who own their solar energy system, whether paid for in cash or through financing.
  • Carryover Provision: If the tax credit exceeds the tax liability, the excess amount may be carried forward to the next tax year.
  • IRS Form Involvement: Claimants must file IRS Form 5695 as part of their tax return to get the credit.

By exploiting the ITC, property owners can substantially lower the overall cost of going solar, leading to a shorter payback period and increased savings over the lifespan of the system.

Eligibility for the Solar Tax Credit

To qualify for the solar tax credit, also known as the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), individuals must meet specific criteria:

  • Ownership: The solar photovoltaic (PV) system must be owned, not leased or under a power purchase agreement (PPA).
  • Installation: The installation of the PV system must be completed during the tax year for which the credit is claimed.
  • Location: The system must be located at a residence in the United States used by the taxpayer. This can be primary or secondary residences for personal installations, or off-site community solar projects if the electricity generated is credited against, and does not exceed, the homeowner’s electricity consumption.
  • First Use: The tax credit can only be claimed on the “original installation” of the solar equipment. It’s not available for previously used equipment.
  • Type of Solar Energy: The credit covers solar PV panels, solar water heating systems, and other solar-powered systems, but it does not include solar pool heating systems or passive solar heat systems.

By meeting these conditions, taxpayers can be confident in their eligibility to claim the solar tax credit when filing with the IRS.

IRS Verification: Forms and Documentation Requirements

To confirm eligibility for the solar credit, the IRS requires the completion of Form 5695, “Residential Energy Credits.” Taxpayers must include the cost of their solar photovoltaic (PV) system, which encompasses solar panels and related equipment.

Additionally, taxpayers should retain the following:

  • Proof of Purchase: A copy of the contract with the solar company or receipts showing the purchase and installation costs.
  • Manufacturer’s Certification Statement: A document certifying that the solar equipment is eligible for the credit.
  • Installation Dates: Evidence of when the solar energy system was placed in service during the tax year.
  • IRS Instructions: Adherence to the IRS guidelines detailed in the instructions for Form 5695.

A professional tax advisor can provide further assistance in ensuring the documentation aligns with IRS requirements.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for Solar Credits

Ensuring the solar energy system is installed and operational before the end of the tax year is essential to claim the credit for that particular year. If the system is not operational until the next year, the credit must be deferred.

Accurate and complete filling out of IRS Form 5695 is vital. Taxpayers need to pay close attention to all required information, including costs that are eligible for the credit. Inclusion of the Manufacturer’s Certification Statement with the tax return can help substantiate eligibility.

Keep meticulous records of all expenses related to the solar installation. This includes not only equipment and labor costs but also any additional expenses like permit fees, which are eligible for the credit.

Avoid the assumption that solar credits can be claimed for rental properties. Solar credits apply only to primary and secondary homes.

Do not overlook the possibility of carrying the credit forward if the tax liability is less than the credit amount. If the credit cannot be fully used in the installation year, it may be possible to carry over the remainder to the next tax year.

Ensure that the solar energy system is new or being used for the first time. The credit is only available for the original installation of the solar equipment, not for resale systems or second-hand equipment.

Appeals Process for Denied Solar Tax Credit Claims

If your solar tax credit claim is denied, you have the right to dispute the decision. First, carefully review the IRS notice to understand the reason for denial. Respond to the notice by following the instructions provided. This often involves completing Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and attaching a detailed explanation along with any additional supporting documentation.

Consider reaching out to a tax professional for guidance on the appeals process. They can help ensure your revised documentation addresses the IRS’s concerns. If necessary, you can also request a conference with an IRS manager.

For unresolved disputes, the IRS Office of Appeals offers an independent review of your case. You will need to file a written protest or a small case request if the amount in dispute is within certain thresholds. Timeliness in all responses and appeals is crucial, as there are strict deadlines for each step of the process.

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is another resource available for assistance. TAS is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers resolve problems and navigate the complexities of IRS procedures.


How long do solar panels last?

Solar panels are designed to last between 20 and 30 years, with some high-quality models potentially lasting up to 40 years.

How many solar panels do I need?

The number of solar panels required for an average U.S. household typically ranges between 15 to 20, however, individual needs and the state of residence can influence this figure.

Does Colorado have a solar tax credit?

Yes, Colorado provides residents with several solar rebates and tax credits in addition to the generous federal solar tax credit.

What are the maintenance requirements for solar panels?

Solar panels typically require minimal maintenance, which mainly involves regular cleaning to remove dust and debris, and periodic professional inspections to ensure optimal functioning and output.

How is the efficiency of solar panels measured?

The efficiency of solar panels is measured by the ratio of the electrical output from the solar cell to the amount of solar energy striking the surface of the cell.

What is the environmental impact of solar power production?

The environmental impact of solar power production is significantly lower compared to traditional energy sources, producing no greenhouse emissions during operation, however, there are some concerns related to resource consumption and waste generation during the manufacturing, transportation, and end-of-life treatment of solar panels.

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