A number of energy efficient rebate programs and related tax credits were enacted and available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by Congress in 2010. Many of the items were first started in 2005 but were re-authorized again with the ARRA legislation. Within this jumbo-law package, tax credits for weatherizing homes, upgrading heat and air home systems, and purchase of energy star home appliances. However, many of these tax rebates and incentives expired with the end of 2011 and no longer exist (http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=206875,00.html).
The phase-out, ironically, was already written into the federal law; the tax credits were never meant to be permanent. The cut-off just coincidentally corresponded with the present mood of the country that the federal government should be spending less, unable to subsidize all the public programs people would like to see for free.
The remaining energy federal tax credits are primarily restricted to contractors involved in the construction of new home purchases as well as appliance purchases that meet the energy star rating criteria. Finally, for owners of commercial buildings, federal law also provides an incentive for commercial solar panel system installations discussed on IRS Form 3468 (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f3468.pdf).
With the above said, the question then remains what energy efficient rebate programs do remain and exist to help people fund the home energy efficiency changes needed. Fortunately, where the tax credit gap may now exist at the federal level, a number of similar programs exist at the state level that can still be taken advantage of.
For example, Oregon State offers a number of energy efficient rebate programs for homeowners and residential structure owners to pay for improvements. These include repairs or replacement for residential HVAC systems, installation of solar panel roof systems, wind energy capture, and wood and pellet fuel systems (http://oregon.gov/ENERGY/RESIDENTIAL/residential_energy_tax_credits.shtml). With the Oregon program even renters can take advantage of some of the tax credits as long as they meet eligibility.
It’s important to note that each state program is different and has its own tax credit nuances. Some tax credit programs allow homeowners and renters to take a tax credit as long as they have receipt documentation to prove the system claimed were actually bought in a given tax year. Other state energy efficient rebate programs may require people be screened first before they can legally claim the given tax credit or deduction. Oregon, for example, requires state taxpayers to apply first for approval before the above tax credit program can then be utilized. Because these differences can vary by region, homeowners and renters considering an energy efficiency purchase should check their local state tax laws first to be aware of all related tax credit requirements.
Most major home HVAC service vendors and appliance contractors are well aware of the energy efficient rebate programs that do and don’t exist in their respective service areas. However, that doesn’t mean that they are experts of how a given tax credit applies in every unique situation. In some cases, consumers can find themselves talked into a major utility or appliance purchase for their home and then be left trying to figure out how to file for the credit. Consumers are well-served to be comfortable with specific tax credits before signing the dotted line. If not, a prospective buyer should require the contractor to provide the specific tax credit government information he is alleging will benefit the consumer. If he can’t, then it’s likely the energy efficient rebate program he’s marketing doesn’t exist.