In 1819, toward the end of his illustrious life, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.”
He may have been right, but certainty with respect to taxes is limited to the mere matter of their existence. A number of important details about our tax system are uncertain and up for debate, including which public needs our tax money goes to and how quickly it gets there.
That’s why one of the co-owners, Michael O’Donnell, attended the Solar + Wind Finance and Investment Summit at the Arizona Biltmore last month, where he took the opportunity to conduct and record an impromptu interview with Derek Ganter, a community relations official at the IRS. It was an enlightening conversation, and it reinforced the conviction that citizen participation will be essential to the success of America’s energy transition.
Ganter, Director of the Stakeholder Liaison at the IRS, had spoken about his agency and how it was working to meet its obligations under the Inflation Reduction Act, the recently passed law that allocates a huge amount of resources—almost $400 billion in tax credits, grants, and loan guarantees—to renewable energy and other infrastructure needs, including rooftop solar. In the conversation, he emphasized the service-oriented mindset his agency was taking toward the newly allocated IRS funds (which total about $80 billion and are expected to raise $124 billion in increased revenue).
“It’s needed for our agency, but more importantly, it’s needed for the country. We serve at the pleasure of the American taxpayer, and they deserve to get top-quality service. Now we have the wherewithal.”
Given the IRS’s central role as the link between legislative means and ends, it’s clear that good taxpayer service will indeed be indispensable to achieving the country’s ambitions for distributed solar power. Good service takes money, which is why the new funding, as controversial as it may be, will undeniably play a critical part in the country’s energy transition.
“It’s huge,” said Ganter. “It really helps cultivate that green economy that I think we’re all getting to at some point—but maybe it’s going to happen a little bit faster.”
Ganter’s comments reflect the fact that the IRS is at the center of America’s green-energy revolution, and this fact should be top of mind for anyone who has a stake in our nation’s transformation into a renewable-energy economy (which is to say: everyone). Like many other public priorities addressed through our overloaded tax code, public financial support for renewable energy (including solar) is achieved in large part through tax credits, an approach that relies on individual initiative—from energy consumers as well as investors—rather than direct construction of infrastructure by the government.
It’s a system with upsides and downsides, one of the downsides being the fact that low-income homeowners with no tax liability cannot easily make use of the credits. The upside—more flexibility and speed in deploying resources to where they’re needed—depends on the initiative and energy of the private sector, which is why it’s up to businesses and regular citizens to get engaged.
“That’s why I’m here,” Ganter said. “Because we want to make sure we get it right, and we want to leverage your expertise, your perspective on things. And so being able to build networks with you and others so we can learn how this should be done is really important. And so we’re looking forward to working with your industry more and more in the future so we can make sure we get it done right.”
About that expertise: as a sales and installation company with eight years in the solar energy business, Sunsolar Solutions certainly does have a lot of hard-won knowledge to offer government agencies regarding the best ways to craft rules and processes (which is why the owners frequently engage the Arizona Corporation Commission in public hearings regarding utility rates and regulations).
But customers are experts as well. Arizona homeowners and ratepayers with solar systems know from experience how to qualify for credit and how to get project approval from their city and their utility. And they know how painful it was to see their energy costs rise year after year with little they could do to get them under control—until, that is, the option to harness their share of the sun’s rays came along.
That’s why everyone who owns a home or buys energy should get involved in the nitty-gritty of turning the law into specific rules. The IRS is getting close to finalizing its first wave of “guidance” for taxpayers to take advantage of clean-energy tax credits, a process that is shaped in part by public comments. The agency is still accepting written comments (the portal for electronically submitted comments is now closed), and it will be making more requests for comments in the future. We’ll be sure to cover those and let you know how to submit your ideas regarding future proposed rules and guidance.
Fortunately, Franklin’s intuition about the durability of the new constitution turned out to be right, which is why we have the opportunity to submit those ideas to begin with. Whether or not those ideas become reality is not as certain as death or taxes, but it’s worth a shot.
The experienced professionals at SUNSOLAR Solutions are ready to help you take control of your family’s energy future. Get started with a FREE quote to have a design prepared for your home free of charge!