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Save the Planet and Your Wallet: A Guide to Claiming Residential Energy Credits on Your Tax Return

Updated: Jan 29

Dollar bills folded in the shape of a home

If you're a homeowner who has recently made energy-efficient improvements to your residence, such as installing solar panels or energy-efficient windows, you may be eligible for residential energy credits on your federal income tax return. To claim these credits, you will need to fill out IRS Form 5695, which is specifically designed to calculate and claim residential energy credits. And don't worry, if you're feeling a bit lost or overwhelmed about filling out Form 5695, we've got you covered.

But before we dive in, let's talk about why you might want the help of a tax or renewable energy developer professional when filling out this form. Sure, you can try to tackle it on your own, but the process can be a bit tricky, especially if you're not used to dealing with tax forms or renewable energy credits. A professional can help guide you through the process, ensure that you're eligible for the credits you're claiming, and maximize the amount of money you can save on your taxes. Plus, working with a professional can give you peace of mind that everything is being done correctly, so you don't have to worry about making any mistakes.

Now, back to the form itself. The first step is to determine whether you're eligible for the credits. If you've made energy-efficient improvements to your home, such as installing solar panels or energy-efficient windows, you're likely eligible. Make sure to gather all of your documentation, including receipts for materials and labor costs.

Once you have your documentation in order, it's time to fill out Form 5695. Part 1 is where you'll provide your personal information, including your name, Social Security number, and address. You'll also need to indicate whether you're claiming the credit for the current year or if you're carrying forward a credit from a previous year. If you're carrying forward a credit, you'll need to provide the details of the credit from the previous year, including the amount and the year it was claimed.

Part 2 is where things get a bit more complicated. This is where you'll need to calculate your residential energy credits based on the energy-efficient improvements you made to your home. There are two types of credits you can claim: the non-business energy property credit and the residential energy-efficient property credit.

The non-business energy property credit is for improvements made to the main home, such as insulation, energy-efficient windows, and doors, and certain types of heating and cooling systems. We'll run through an example below, but keep in mind that actual cost savings will differ based on the improvement type, year implemented, and sector so be sure to check the instructions for Form 5695 or consult with a professional if you're unsure.

The residential energy-efficient property credit is for improvements made to renewable energy systems, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal systems. The credit is equal to a percentage of the cost of the improvements, up to a certain limit. For example, let's say the the credit for solar electric systems is 26% of the cost of the system, while the credit for small wind turbines is 30% of the cost of the system, up to a maximum of $4,000. Again, make sure to confirm these numbers before submitting your form.

To calculate your credits in Part 2, you'll need to fill out a separate section for each type of credit you're claiming. You'll need to provide the details of the improvements, including the type of improvement, the date it was placed in service, and the cost. You'll then need to calculate the credit based on the cost and transfer the credit amount to your tax return.

Overall, while Part 2 of Form 5695 can be a bit complicated, it's worth taking the time to understand the credits you're eligible for and to ensure you're calculating them correctly. And, as always, don't hesitate to seek the help of a professional if you're feeling unsure or overwhelmed. With a little guidance and some careful attention to detail, you can successfully claim your credits and feel good about doing your part to save the planet.

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