On August 30, 2016, the US Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) finalized regulations that clarify the definition of real property for purposes of the real estate investment trust (“REIT”) provisions under Section 856. The final regulations generally are consistent with the proposed regulations that were released in May 2014. (See our earlier update, “Proposed Regulations Provide REITs a Framework for Solar Energy Property,” from May 14, 2014.) Certain solar industry participants were advocating for solar to be a REIT-eligible asset class in an effort to create a new market for solar projects in the event that the investment tax credit (“ITC”) declined to 10 percent after 2016. In December 2015, Congress extended the ITC with a gradual phase-down. (See our earlier update, “Certain US Energy Tax Credits Extended, But Phaseout Dates Scheduled,” from December 28, 2015.) The extension made the need to make solar a viable asset class for REITs a less pressing issue. It is fortunate for the solar industry that it does not have to rely on REITs, as the new regulations only enable REITs to own solar projects in limited situations.
The final regulations keep the facts and circumstances framework, as opposed to bright-line rules, for determining whether property is real property for purposes of Section 856. Therefore, all of the specific facts of a particular solar energy property will need to be analyzed to determine its REIT classification. The final regulations apply for taxable years beginning after August 31, 2016.
Continue Reading As Expected, Final REIT Regulations Offer Little Help for Solar