Don't overlook these 2012 tax breaks
Feds settle $15 million tax scam; Adding up sales tax deduction amount

Energy efficient home improvement tax break is back ... until Dec. 31

This weekend's massive snow storm has left record levels of the fluffy white stuff from the Upper Midwest to New England.

In the northeastern part of the country, the Weather Channel reports that five states -- Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and New York -- have had locations that recorded 30 inches or more of snow from the storm that's been named Nemo.

Time lapse of Feb. 8, 2013, snow storm courtesy

If you are among the thousands of folks who are socked in because of the snow, you might have learned something about your house. Like it's cold.

I mean really cold, thanks to those leaky windows in the living room. And the guest room is basically uninhabitable because apparently there is just 1/8th of an inch of insulation in its walls.

The good news is that once you're able to get to the hardware store, the products you buy to make sure you don't have to sleep in a parka ever again also could net you a tax break.

Energy credit gets powered up again: The energy efficient home improvement tax credit is back in the tax code. This tax-saving news is today's Daily Tax Tip.

Yes, it did expire at the end of 2011. And yes, we went through all of 2012 without it being on the books.

But on Jan. 2 when the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA), also known as the fiscal cliff bill, became law, the 2011 version of this tax credit returned.

In case you've forgotten, here's how this tax break once again works.

The tax credit, which is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your final tax bill, could be up to $500.

To claim that credit, you need to pay close attention to the specific types of residential upgrades that are covered. The tax credit amounts are parceled out in increments of $50 to $300 depending on which products you use and what energy efficiency changes you make to your home.

Add an advanced main air circulating fan that uses a motor to push your furnace's heated air through the duct system and you'll get a $50 tax credit.

If you decide to replace your heating system with a tax-credit-credit approved heat pump (or get a new air conditioning unit this summer), you could shave $300 off your tax bill.

Shove rolls of that scratchy pink insulation into your home's walls or use other products that seal leaks, such as weather stripping or caulk or spray foam, and you could be eligible for a tax credit of up to 10 percent of the cost up to $500.

Energy efficient windows, doors and skylights qualify for a $200 credit. The good news is that you don't have to replace all the windows or doors or skylights in your home to qualify. You can just put new ones in your leaky living room.

You can even decide to put a new energy efficient window in a room where there wasn't an opening before and still get the credit.

Check out the Energy Star website for details on the various home energy tax credits.

Remember the lifetime limit: In addition to the specific limits for the type of energy upgrade, there also is a lifetime limit on the energy improvement credits.

The $500 credit limit applies to energy tax claims since the tax break was first available, which was the 2006 tax year. 

Back then the $500 maximum was in place. The credit expired for tax year 2008 but was brought back in an expanded form -- a $1,500 maximum credit claim -- for tax years 2009 and 2010.

For 2011, the credit was scaled back to the $500 maximum and that's the version in place for 2012 and 2013 tax filings.

And that means that is you've taken an energy efficiency credit in any of the previous years it was available and your total prior claims came to $500 or more, you can't claim it now.

If, however, your previous claims were for $400, you've still got $100 to work with on 2012 and 2013 returns.

2012, too: That's right, even though we made it through last year with the home energy efficiency tax credit erased from the tax code, it's back for last year, too.

Of course, all the Nemo-inspired home energy upgrades you make now, as well as any others completed through Dec. 31 will be claimed on your 2013 tax return filed next year.

But if you made any of the eligible energy improvements last year, you could be in luck this filing season.

Since ATRA made the home energy tax credits retroactive to the 2012 tax year, you might be able to claim them on your current tax return due by this April 15.

For both tax year claims you'll file Form 5695. And you'll need to file the long Form 1040, to which the 5695 will be attached. The credit amount calculated on the 5695 will go on the 1040's line 52. The home energy credit isn't included on the 1040A or 1040EZ.

You also might find these items of interest:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I wish I had better news, but if you claimed the full credit for home improvements since 2006 at any home, then you won’t be able to take the break again. It's per taxpayer, not residence. Sorry. I hope the upgrades at least helped you get a good sales price!

Mike Fitzgerald

If I made improvements to a home in 2011 and received the tax credit, but sold the home and now made improvements to my current home, does the lifetime limit apply?

PA taxpayer

I'd say if you only have $500 to work with, insulation is the only improvement that makes sense economically (I mean, if utilizing the tax break was the only thing on your mind). It is still the most efficient improvement in terms of heating/cooling money saved on money spent, it lasts effectively forever (or as long as the house does anyway) and requires no ongoing maintenance - something that is not tax-deductible and any investment into any kind of equipment will require.

Perhaps in some hotter locales installing proper new windows might be efficient, too (although the non-covered installation expenses are way higher for windows) but here in PA, as well as the rest of the moderate climate states, adding or otherwise improving insulation is THE thing to do to make best use of the tax credit.

By the way, a small detail: new constructions don't qualify. So, it's gotta be an improvement of your existing primary residence.

The comments to this entry are closed.