Mayer Brown’s David K. Burton and Jeffrey G. Davis both Tax Transactions & Consulting partners and part of the firm’s Renewable Energy group co-hosted a heavily attended webinar on how tax reform is impacting the tax equity market and certain renewable energy structures with Vadim Ovchinnikov, CFA, CPA and Gintaras Sadauskas of Alfa Energy Advisors.
On June 22, 2018, the IRS released Notice 2018-59 (the “Guidance”). The Guidance provides rules to determine when construction begins with respect to investment tax credit (“ITC”) eligible property, such as solar projects. The Guidance was much awaited by the solar industry because the date upon which construction begins governs the determination of the percentage level of the ITC, which is ratcheted down for projects that begin construction after 2019.
In addition to applying to solar and (fiber-optic solar), the Guidance applies to the following energy generation technologies: geothermal, fuel cell, microturbine, combined heat and power and small wind.
Overview of Beginning of Construction
The ITC percentage for a solar project is determined based on the year in which construction of the project begins, provided the solar project is also placed in service before January 1, 2024, as follows: (i) before January 1, 2020, 30%, (ii) in 2020, 26%, (iii) in 2021, 22% and (iv) any time thereafter (regardless of the year in which the solar project is placed in service), 10%.
The Guidance is quite similar to existing guidance for utility scale wind projects. The utility scale wind guidance is discussed in our 2016 Update. As expected and consistent with the wind guidance, the Guidance provides two means for establishing the beginning of construction of a solar project (and other ITC technology projects): (i) engaging in significant physical work either directly or by contract the “Physical Work Method”) or (ii) paying or incurring (depending on the taxpayer’s method of accounting) five percent of the ultimate tax basis of the project (the “Five Percent Method”). As is the case with wind, the Guidance provides that the IRS will apply strict scrutiny of the facts and circumstances to determine if the project was continuously constructed from the deemed beginning of construction date through the date the project is placed in service.
Four Year Placed-in-Service Window
The wind guidance provides a four year window for the project to be completed and to avoid the scrutiny as to whether the construction was continuous. There had been speculation that the window for solar (or at least some classes of solar) would be shorter because the time to construct solar projects (especially rooftop solar) is generally shorter than the time to construct a wind project. In what is a relief to the solar industry, the Guidance provides solar, and the other ITC technologies, a four year window as well. …
Today, the House voted 227 to 303 in favor of the tax reform bill agreed to by the conference committee. No Democrats voted for the House bill, and 12 Republicans from high tax states voted against it. The Senate is expected to vote later this evening to approve it; it is possible that the president could sign the bill as early as tomorrow.
The enacted legislation is expected to be identical to the bill approved by the conference committee. Our analysis of the conference committee’s bill’s impact on the renewable energy market is below, which is followed by a chart that summarizes the relevant provisions in each of the three bills.…
Our article Proposed GOP Tax Reform Would Curtail Tax Incentives for Wind and Solar is available from North American WindPower (no subscription required). The article includes a discussion of the politics of the Senate passing tax reform and a discussion of market implications; however, the discussion of the specific changes to the Internal Revenue Code…