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Could Your Business Qualify for a 179D Green Building Tax Break?

If your company has built a new facility or upgraded an existing one anytime in the past six years, you might find that you qualify -- at least partially -- for a tax break of up to $1.80 per square foot under federal tax code section 179D, or the energy efficient commercial buildings deduction. This could be the case even if you had no concrete intention to focus on green building standards at the time.

A couple of great features of this deduction are, first, that you might be able to substantially mitigate your tax burden  as far back as six years and, second, it’s very likely that you will qualify if your facility exceeds 50,000 square feet and it meets current state building codes, according to a business tax writer for Forbes, who spent eight years as the U.S. Senate Finance Committee’s tax counsel.

The 179D tax deduction gives the business an immediate deduction in the current year plus a basis reduction for the value of the facility, which can be anything from a warehouses or parking garage to an office park or a multi-family housing unit. For private-sector projects, the building owner, assuming it paid for the construction or improvements, generally gets the deduction. In public projects, the architect, engineer or contractor can obtain it by seeking a certification letter from the government unit. Nonprofits and native American tribes are not eligible.

The green building deduction was created in recognition of the fact that around 70 percent of all electricity used in the U.S. is consumed by commercial buildings. The deduction, which is up for renewal -- and possible expansion -- this year, has already proven that efforts to mitigate the tax burden of businesses in a technology-neutral way is an effective way to encourage energy efficiency, according to the Forbes writer.

What improvements must be made to qualify for the green building credit? Currently, the new or renovated building merely needs to exceed the 2001 energy efficiency standards developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers, or ASHRAE -- and most state building codes already require this. That means the vast majority of new and improved buildings already meet this requirement.

It’s also possible to partially qualify for the deduction by meeting the standards only for the building envelope itself, which includes HVAC, the hot water system, and the interior lighting system. A building could qualify based upon only one of these systems, or all three.

If you would like to learn if your business qualifies, sit down with your corporate tax counsel.

Source: Forbes, "179D Tax Break for Energy Efficient Buildings -- Update," Dean Zerbe, Aug. 19, 2013

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