form 5695 instructions solar tax credit

How do I claim the solar tax credit (ITC)? Form 5695 instructions

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If you’re considering solar, you’ve probably heard about the federal solar tax credit, also known as the Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The Federal ITC makes solar more affordable for homeowners and businesses by granting a dollar-for-dollar tax deduction equal to 26% of the total cost of a solar energy system.

What does 26% actually mean for the average solar shopper? According to EnergySage marketplace data, the average national gross cost of installing a solar panel system in 2021 is $16,860. At that price, the solar tax credit can reduce your federal tax burden by $4,618 – and that’s just one of many rebates and incentives that can reduce the cost of solar for homeowners. There’s plenty of information out there about the value of the residential ITC, but figuring out how to actually claim the credit when it comes time to file your taxes is another story. We’ll walk you through the instructions step by step from Form 5695 to Schedule 3/Form 1040.

Key takeaways

  • Claiming the federal ITC involves determining your tax appetite and filling out the proper forms
  • The federal ITC remains at 26% for 2021 and 2022
  • Start comparing solar quotes on the EnergySage Marketplace for maximum savings

Form 5695 instructions: the 3 steps to claim the solar tax credit

There are three broad steps you’ll need to take in order to benefit from the federal solar tax credit:

  1. Determine if you are eligible

    Make sure you have enough tax appetite to use the federal ITC against your total taxes.ITC three scenarios

  2. Complete IRS Form 5695

    This form validates your qualification for renewable energy credits, and can be obtained online.

  3. Add your renewable energy credit information to your typical Form 1040

    Loop your renewable energy credit information into your regular tax form.

First things first: am I eligible for the solar tax credit?

You are eligible for the Federal ITC as long as you own your solar energy system, rather than lease it. If you sign a lease agreement, the third-party owner gets the solar tax credit associated with the system. This is also true for the vast majority of state and local incentives for solar, although in some special cases a lease will grant you the financial benefits associated with the sale of solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs). You are also eligible even if the solar energy system is not on your primary residence – as long as you own the property and live in it for part of the year, you can claim the solar tax credit.

If your federal tax liability is lower than the total amount of your ITC savings, you can still take advantage of it by carrying over any remaining credits to the following year.

Here’s an example: You pay $20,000 to install a solar system on your home in 2021, which means you are eligible for a $5,200 federal solar tax credit. If your federal tax liability for 2021 is only $4,500, you will owe no federal taxes that year, and in 2022, you will reduce your tax liability by $700.

Instructions for filling out IRS Form 5695 for 2021

Claiming the ITC is easy. All you need to do is complete IRS Form 5695, “Residential Energy Credits,” and include the final result of that form on IRS Schedule 3/Form 1040.

Please note: At EnergySage, we are solar experts, not tax experts! Tax codes are complicated, so consult your tax advisor before deciding what is best for you.

Form 5695 instructions

Form 5695 calculates tax credits for a variety of qualified residential energy improvements, including geothermal heat pumps, solar panels, solar water heating, small wind turbines, and fuel cells. We’ll use the national average gross cost of a solar energy system as an example.

  • First, you will need to know the qualified solar electric property costs. That is the total gross cost of your solar energy system after any cash rebates. Add that to line 1.
  • Insert the total cost of any additional energy improvements, if any, on lines 2 through 4, and add them up on line 5.
form 5695 instructions
  • On line 6, multiply line 5 by 26%. This is the amount of the solar tax credit.
form 5695 instructions
Note: this is from the 2019 form when the ITC was still 30%.
  • Assuming you are not also receiving a tax credit for fuel cells installed on your property, and you aren’t carrying forward any credits from last year, put the value from line 6 on line 13.

Now you need to calculate if you will have enough tax liability to get the full 26% credit in one year.

  • Complete the worksheet on page 4 of the instructions for Form 5695 to calculate the limit on tax credits you can claim. If you are claiming tax credits for adoption expenses, interest on a mortgage, or buying a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle, you will need that information here. (For this example, total federal tax liability is $7,000.)
form 5695 line 14
  • Enter the result on line 14 of Form 5695. Review line 13 and line 14, and put the smaller of the two values on line 15.
  • If your tax liability is smaller than your tax credits, subtract line 15 from line 13, and enter it on line 16. That’s the amount you can claim on next year’s taxes.
form 5695 instructions

Add credit to Schedule 3/Form 1040

The value on line 15 is the amount that will be credited on your taxes this year. Enter that value into Schedule 3 (Form 1040 or 1040-SR), line 5, or Form 1040NR, line 50.

form 5695 final step

The steps above outline all you need to do to have 26% of the cost of your solar panel system credited back to you! If you did energy efficiency improvements to your home in the same year, you may also need to complete page 2 of Form 5695. Either way, be sure to include Form 5695 when you submit your taxes to the IRS.

Additional Solar Energy Resources

283 thoughts on “How do I claim the solar tax credit (ITC)? Form 5695 instructions

  1. George N

    I’m a disabled veteran receiving non taxable income, and I recently purchased solar panels, do I qualify for the federal tax credit.

  2. Joe

    I’ve been offered an opportunity to buy into a commercial solar array so I can capture the solar tax credit as well as an income stream. Can I do this and take the credit on my 1040 or must I own a business in order to purchase a commercial array?

  3. monica

    If I am buying the solar panels for a house that my mother is buying can I receive the tax credit?
    My mom bought the house
    I’m buying the solar panels.
    Tax credit goes to whom?

    1. Dan

      I believe the answer to this is ‘no,’ because the solar system has to be installed by a licensed professional. Someone can correct me on that if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure it has to be done by a pro, not DIY.

  4. Chuck Young

    I’m having trouble with one entry on my taxes, which is putting me at that “last minute” moment.
    I’m trying to find out how I enter my forwarding credit to my 2019 taxes.
    Last year I was given a partial credit, but the return said I can carry forward the remainder to 2019.
    I got 4500 and have 8243 to forward. Filling out this years taxes, it says there’s no amount this year, it will carry over to 2020. Why would that happen? I was really expecting to see it this year. I wanted to put it to the loan and lower my payment to make it worthwhile.

  5. Greg Singleton

    Hi, I’m getting solar installed in the next few months (probably Aug/Sep 2020), right after I replace my roof in order to have a clean slate prior to solar installation and not have to replace my roof after solar goes on. My solar salesman is telling me I can roll up the cost of the roof along with the cost of the solar installation and get the 26% tax credit on both, given that I am doing both jobs in the same year. I’m trying to find the exact regulatory and legal answer as to whether or not this is true. I use Turbo Tax to do my taxes every year, and it has always walked me through the process of getting all deductions and tax credits. Just wondering if this really good news story is too good to be true. Can I get the 26% tax credit on the roof too? Thanks!

    1. M. Jennings

      Yes, it’s true–at least when you finance them together like that, because on paper it’s one total cost for the whole solar project. However, if you go through a separate entity and pay for the roof project separately from the solar project, then it wouldn’t.

  6. Louis Greene

    We have completed the required form along without taxes but haven’t heard anything about our rebate. When will we get it .Please respond to this message.


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