Roundtable Recommends Solutions to Ease Compliance with Labor Rules for IRA Tax Incentives

Workers on sustainable energy project on rooftop of building

The Real Estate Roundtable submitted comments this week encouraging the Treasury Department to provide a compliance “safe harbor” to streamline labor-related requirements necessary to seek “bonus” tax incentives for clean energy building projects under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). (Roundtable comment letter, Oct. 30)

Prevailing Wage and Apprenticeship Compliance Burdens

  • The Roundtable letter notes that the IRA’s objective to support retrofits and slash carbon emissions in the built environment will be undermined if the costs of labor compliance far exceed the incentives offered by Congress.
  • The comments explain that wage and apprenticeship compliance burdens would dis-incentivize businesses and taxpayers’ to pursue the IRA’s clean energy bonuses, thereby rendering the bonus credits program illusory in many cases.
  • The letter also emphasizes that a regulatory solution to ease the IRA’s paperwork burdens would spur more clean energy projects in buildings—and encourages Treasury/IRS to conduct its own thorough cost-benefit accounting of Prevailing Wage/Registered Apprenticeship (PW/RA) Requirements before issuing a final rule.

 Contractor Compliance Certifications Sought

rooftop heat pumps with solar panels in the foreground.
  • The “safe harbor” recommendation by The Roundtable would allow building owners/developers to rely on written certifications provided by their General Contractors (GCs), or any other subcontractors (subs), would confirm and fulfill all PW/RA labor requirements.
  • This streamlined approach would reduce the compliance burden and retain the fervor that IRA tax incentives could generate under the IRA. Real estate owners and developers are not the direct employers of electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians, solar technicians, EV charging installers, or any others that construct or retrofit buildings. GCs and subs directly employ manual laborers.
  • The Roundtable also recommends regulators develop “Recordkeeping Requirements” for PW/RA compliance that reflect the reality of how laborers, mechanics, and apprentices are employed on real estate projects, who is hired by whom, and how hours worked are tracked.

Other targeted tax reforms that will help scale real estate’s transformation toward zero emissions are recommended in The Roundtable letter. These include expanding Section 48 of the Code to building electrification technologies; allowing private owner transfers to unrelated third parties under Sections 45L and 179D; and repealing a Section 179D rule that reduces a property’s basis by the amount of the claimed deduction. (Roundtable comment letter, Oct. 30)

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Monetizing Energy Credits: Roundtable Submits Recommendations to Treasury

U.S. Capitol

The Real Estate Roundtable submitted comments today on proposed and temporary tax regulations regarding the transferability and direct payment of clean energy credits under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022. (Roundtable comments, July 28)

 IRA Incentives 

  • Congress passed the IRA last August. The law significantly increases the size of existing tax incentives for energy-saving improvements to commercial real estate. Perhaps even more importantly, the legislation contained key reforms related to the transferability and direct payment of energy tax credits.

  • The reforms have made the incentives relevant to a large and previously untapped segment of real estate owners, including REITs, pension funds, and private foundations. The incentives include:

    • Tax-exempt real estate owners that invest in solar panels and other improvements can elect to receive direct payments from the Treasury in lieu of the expanded investment tax credit.
    • Taxable real estate owners, including REITs, can sell the credits to third parties for cash. 
    • The credit amount can range from 6% to 60% of the qualifying investment, depending on factors such as the size, location, domestic content, and wages paid to equipment contractors.
  • Roundtable comments submitted last year included recommendations on the IRA’s transferability provisions. On June 14, the Treasury Department and IRS issued proposed regulations to implement the provisions, as well as temporary regulations establishing a pre-filing registration process.

  • The IRS rules adopted certain Roundtable recommendations, such as the ability to divide and sell the credits from a single project to multiple transferees. Other recommendations, which would have maximized the value of the credits in mixed real estate partnerships involving taxable and tax-exempt partners, were rejected as contrary to the statute and difficult to administer.  

Energy Credits Monetization  

U.S. Treasury Building
  • Today’s letter from Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer commends Treasury for providing greater clarity on its credit monetization mechanism and for laying out a rational process and timeline for property owners to claim and transfer credits or receive payments.

  • The Roundtable’s July 28 letter—developed by a joint working group of the Roundtable’s Tax and Sustainability Policy Advisory Committees (TPAC and SPAC)—also encourages Treasury to revisit the issue of mixed partnerships and asks for clarification that the credits are not “bad assets” for purposes of the 75% REIT asset test.

  • The credit monetization tools enacted in the IRA offer valuable new opportunities to access and raise capital for energy-saving improvements to commercial real estate. The deadline for comments to Treasury and the IRS is August 14, and final Treasury regulations are expected this year.  

The Roundtable’s Energy Credit Transferability Working Group will remain engaged with policymakers as the rules are finalized and implementation continues. 

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Roundtable Comments on Clean Energy Tax Credits for Low-Income Communities, Housing

Low-income housing development in New Jersey

The Real Estate Roundtable submitted comments today on a proposed rule from the IRS and Treasury Department regarding “bonus” tax credits for renewable energy investments in low-income communities, passed by Congress as part of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). (Roundtable Comment Letter, June 30) 

Solar, Wind Bonus Credits 

Roundtable Comments 

RER chart on Section 48(e)
  • Treasury and IRS proposed a rule on June 1 to implement the low-income bonus program. Today’s comments from The Roundtable seek greater clarity and certainty for building owners that may access the bonus credits, raising the following points:

    • The bonuses are available only for solar or wind projects that generate under 5 megawatts of electrical output. The Roundtable requested a more straightforward rule for what constitutes a “single project” for purposes of this output threshold.

    • The IRA’s text requires that multifamily building owners must share “financial benefits” of renewable energy produced on-site with tenants. The Roundtable’s comments stressed that any such benefits should not depend on utility bill savings that accrue directly to tenants—because owners cannot measure, track or control energy consumption in sub-metered leased units.

    • Low-income housing supported by non-federal programs through state- and local-level housing finance agencies or public housing authorities should also be eligible for the IRA’s low-income bonuses.

    • The proposed rule would offer a preference, not based in the statute, for non-profit owners to receive bonus credit allocations. The Roundtable’s comments urge there should be no bias against business taxpayers to receive the bonus to further the Biden administration’s climate policy goals for rapid deployment of renewable energy investments in low-income communities.  

  • Future Roundtable comments on IRA topics are in the works. Feedback on a proposed rule to buy-and-sell certain clean energy credits is due August 14. In addition, proposed rules to implement the 179D tax deduction for energy efficient retrofits of commercial buildings are expected this summer. 

Prior comments, information and summaries on The Roundtable’s advocacy efforts regarding clean energy tax incentives are available on our Inflation Reduction Act resources page and in Roundtable Weekly (Dec. 2, 2022 and Nov. 4, 2022).  

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Roundtable Submits Comments to IRS on New Clean Energy Tax Incentives

RER comments - image Nov4 2022

The Real Estate Roundtable submitted extensive comments to Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today that address various clean energy tax incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed by Congress in August. [Nov. 4 letter and Roundtable Weekly, Aug. 12]

Need for Clarifications

IRS building signage

  • The Roundtable’s comments are in response to recent IRS notices on a host of issues affecting CRE. [Roundtable Weekly, Oct. 7 and Roundtable Fact Sheet, Sept. 20]. The letter requests further guidance and clarifications that would:
    • Allow businesses to “layer” multiple credits and deductions on the same buildings;
    • Support building retrofits that contemplate an asset’s “conversion,” such as from multifamily to office, within the revised building efficiency incentive under Section 179D;
    • Maximize installations of solar, wind, and other technologies to feed renewable power to buildings onsite—while also allowing property owners to “sell” excess generation back to the grid;
    • Optimize clean power deployment in low-income housing and economically distressed areas;
    • Offer a “safe harbor” for employers seeking the IRA’s credit boosts when they pay prevailing wages to laborers and mechanics involved in energy project construction and installation; and
    • Capitalize on changes to the tax code that would allow REITs, partnerships, and other businesses to “transfer” certain clean energy credits to third parties.

Roundtable Advocacy RER's Duane Desiderio, Tony Malkin and Ryan McCormick

  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer stated, “The Roundtable’s comments to policymakers will help ensure that the Inflation Reduction Act spurs new investments in clean energy and climate-saving measures that benefit our industry and our country.”
  • The Roundtable letter was developed with input from its Sustainability and Tax Policy Advisory Committees. Treasury and the IRS are expected to start issuing implementing guidance before the end of the year.
  • Roundtable Board Member and Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee Chair Tony Malkin, center in photo above, (Chairman, President, and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust, Inc.) led a panel discussion in September with Roundtable staff on how the IRA’s “clean energy” tax incentives impact CRE. [Watch the discussion].

IRA incentives were discussed this week during a Blackstone ESG Summit panel featuring former Vice Chair of The Roundtable’s Sustainability Committee, Dan Egan (BX’s Americas Head of Real Estate ESG) and Duane Desiderio, Roundtable Senior Vice President and Counsel. 

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Treasury Requests Public Input on Inflation Reduction Act Energy Tax Incentives

U.S. Treasury DepartmentThe Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued six separate notices this week to gather public input regarding the clean energy tax credits and deductions in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). (Treasury Fact Sheet, Oct. 4 and Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 30)

CRE Impact

  • The Treasury and IRS notices most relevant to the real estate industry concern the new law’s provisions regarding:
    • Incentives to improve energy efficiency such as the tax deduction for commercial buildings (Section 179D) and the credit for single- and multi-family residential construction (Section 45L);
    • Credits for specific clean energy technologies like solar panels, energy storage, combined heat and power systems, dynamic glass, and grid interconnection property (Section 48);
    • Credit monetization which can allow businesses to transfer the amount of certain credits to third parties; and
    • Enhancements to boost the value of certain credits where projects are located in economically distressed areas, or that meet labor requirements for prevailing wages and apprenticeship hiring.
  • Comments are due to the Treasury and IRS by November 4.

  • Roundtable fact sheets detail the IRA’s Clean Energy Tax Incentives (Sept. 20) and Revenue Provisions (Aug. 17).

Rapid Implementation

Bloomberg Center energy efficiency canopy

  • Congress authorized $270 billion to the IRA’s clean energy tax incentives – putting Treasury and the IRS, in coordination with the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, at the forefront of implementation. (E&E Greenwire, Oct. 5 and Roundtable Weekly, Aug. 12)
  • One of Treasury’s guiding principles for the public comment process is to “provide clarity and certainty” for businesses and other taxpayers to access the incentives, “so the climate and economic benefits can take effect as quickly as possible.” (Treasury Fact Sheet)

  • White House Senior Adviser John Podesta said, “We have to get implementation right. That means we have to listen, engage, and move quickly to translate policy into action.” (Reuters and Bloomberg Law, Oct. 5)

The Roundtable, working through its Sustainability and Tax Policy Advisory Committees (SPAC and TPAC), will coordinate with industry partners to develop comments to the Treasury and IRS notices that highlight CRE clean energy priorities.

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Roundtable Submits Comments to House Climate Crisis Committee; House Democrats Unveil Green Energy Tax Draft

Logo House Select Commtt Climate x485W edit

The Roundtable submitted energy and climate policy recommendations to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis on Thursday, while members of the House Ways and Means Committee unveiled a draft legislative package of more than 20 energy tax incentives – including incentives to promote commercial and residential building energy efficiency.  

The Roundtable’s climate letter submitted Nov. 21 responds to a request for information from the Select Committee. This panel has no authority to write legislation but is authorized to study climate change and issue legislative policy recommendations (expected by March 31, 2020).

In its study and review of climate policy recommendations, the Select Committee has held a series of hearings featuring various stakeholders – including one focused on Cleaner, Stronger Buildings.”  (Roundtable Weekly, October 25, 2019) .

The Roundtable’s comments to the Select Committee highlighted the priorities advocated by its Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) to:       

  • Improve the model building energy codes process by enacting the Portman-Shaheen Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness (ESIC) Act. (Roundtable Weekly, September 27, 2019)
     
  • Enhance EPA’s voluntary ENERGY STAR incentive programs for both commercial buildings and tenants.
  • Improve the quality and reliability of the national data collected by the federal Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey.
  • Create meaningful accelerated depreciation periods to encourage investments in high performance equipment to retrofit existing commercial and multifamily buildings. (Roundtable Weekly, May 10, 2019)
  • Foster public-private partnerships to finance safety and resiliency improvements to the electricity grid, the natural gas pipeline network, and other energy infrastructure assets.

Meanwhile, a discussion draft of the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act was released Nov. 19 by the chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures – Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA). 

The GREEN Act would extend and revise a number of expired tax incentives, including provisions aimed at encouraging taxpayers to improve the energy efficiency of homes and commercial buildings. Specifically, the discussion draft includes:

  • An updated and enhanced deduction for capital expenditures on energy-efficient commercial building property (section 179D)
  • An expanded tax credit for the developers of new, energy-efficient homes (section 45L)
  • A modified tax credit for energy-efficient improvements to existing homes (section 25C)

Under the bill, the revised tax incentives would be available through 2024. Following release of the draft legislation, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richie Neal (D-MA) stated, “The climate crisis requires bold action, and I’m pleased that we’re using the legislative tools at Ways and Means’ disposal to create green jobs, reduce carbon emissions, and help heal our planet.” We look forward to hearing from stakeholders to ensure this bill is effective in helping improve energy efficiency and eliminating carbon emissions.”

Prospects for passing the GREEN Act are unclear as it is a Democratic initiative that currently lacks Republican support. 

Additionally, The Roundtable and coalition partners continue to lay the research and data foundation for a new tax incentive that would provide accelerated depreciation for high performance, HVAC, lighting, windows, and other equipment to retrofit existing commercial and multifamily buildings, known as “E-QUIP.” (See Roundtable Weekly, May 10, 2019).  The coalition’s objective is for bipartisan introduction of an E-QUIP bill in early 2020.

The Roundtable’s Tax Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC) plans to analyze the proposed measures and respond to any eventual energy tax legislation that may be introduced in the New Year.

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Real Estate, Environmental Groups Recommend Accelerated Depreciation for Energy Efficient Building Equipment

A broad coalition of real estate and environmental organizations urged congressional tax writers this week to establish an accelerated depreciation schedule for a new category of Energy Efficient Qualified Improvement Property installed in buildings – or “E-QUIP.”  (Coalition E-QUIP Letter, May 8)

  

A broad coalition of real estate and environmental organizations urged congressional tax writers this week to establish an accelerated depreciation schedule for a new category of Energy Efficient Qualified Improvement Property installed in buildings – or “E-QUIP.” (Coalition E-QUIP Letter, May 8)

  • The coalition, led by The Real Estate Roundtable, recommends “a uniform E-QUIP 10-year recovery period [to] promote productive business investment by spurring high performance upgrades in commercial and multifamily buildings. In turn, optimizing energy efficient building performance will help create well-paying jobs in the construction, design, and energy sectors; boost equipment manufacturing; enhance our country’s energy independence; and reduce the built environment’s carbon footprint.”    
  • Legislation supported by The Roundtable is currently pending to fix a technical error from the Tax Cut and Jobs Act regarding depreciation of interior building improvements, known as Qualified Improvement Property (“QIP”).  (Roundtable Weekly,  March 15 and QIP Policy Comment Letter, April 26)  However, even if Congress fixes the QIP mistake, it would not meaningfully encourage commercial and multifamily owners to invest in expensive high-performance building equipment.    
  • The new E-QUIP coalition thus proposes a beneficial 10-year cost recovery period for efficient HVAC, lights, roofs and other components that will save energy and reduce carbon emissions attributable to buildings, their tenants, and other occupants.  
  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer said, “The purpose of establishing a new E-QUIP category in the tax code is to stimulate productive, capital investment on a national level that modernizes our nation’s building infrastructure while helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions.  As Congress considers potential tax, infrastructure, and climate legislation, the E-QUIP proposal should have bipartisan appeal on a range of important policies prioritized by Republicans and Democrats.”
  • An elective 10-year, straight-line cost recovery period for E-QUIP expenditures for taxable income, as well as for earnings and profits purposes, is the core of the proposal.  Other elements recommended to Congressional tax writers for consideration in E-QUIP legislation are set forth in the real estate and environmental groups’ coalition letter.   

E-QUIP will be one of many policies affecting commercial real estate discussed during the June 11-12 Annual Roundtable Meeting in Washington DC.