Section 179D of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) is an engineered based tax incentive available for the reduction of energy and power costs in commercial buildings. The tax provision was initially enacted under the 2005 Energy Policy Act (EPACT) and allows for a tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot. The 179D Tax Deduction specifically applies to those commercial buildings that notably reduce their interior lighting energy costs, as well as heating, cooling, and building envelope. Buildings can partially qualify for $0.60 for HVAC, $0.60 for building envelope, and $0.60 for Lighting systems. 

Qualifying Requirements

Section 179D requires the taxpayers building to meet or exceed a 50% savings in energy and power costs when compared to a theoretical ASHRAE 90.1-2001 baseline building. If the target of 50% savings is met, the building will qualify for $1.80/SF (capped at the costs of the capitalized improvements).

For buildings which do not meet the 50% savings, the tax provision also allows for partially qualifying systems.

      1. $0.60/SF for HVAC systems meeting 15% savings
      2. $0.60/SF for Lighting systems meeting 25% savings
      3. $0.60/SF for Building Envelope systems meeting 10% savings

Additionally, the Interim Lighting Rule allows for lighting systems to qualify for 30¢-60¢per square foot for a 25%-40% savings in Lighting Power Density (LPD) compared to ASHRAE 90.1-2001 LPD standards.

Certification Requirements

  • The energy and power costs savings calculations must be performed with a Dept. of Energy approved software.
  • Field inspections must be performed after the energy efficient property has been placed into service in accordance with NREL Guidelines
  • Certifications and inspections must be completed by a qualified Engineer or Contractor in the Jurisdiction of the qualifying building.
  • The taxpayer shall maintain the certification in their records to establish the entitlement to, and amount of, the deduction claimed.

Government Owned Buildings

Governments are non-taxable entities and are unable to benefit from the section 179D tax incentive. Because of this, the IRS established guidance in 2008 allowing governments to allocate the deduction to the parties involved in the design of the energy efficient systems. In addition to the certification, the taxpayers receiving an allocated deduction must retain an “Allocation Letter” in their records.

Allocation Letter

On April 7, 2008, the IRS published Notice 2008-40 providing guidance for the Allocation of the deduction to designers. The primary points addressed in the allocation are:

  • Verifying the parties involvement in the project
  • Cost of property installed
  • The year the property was placed into service
  • The amount of the 179D deduction being allocated

What Buildings Qualify?

  • Commercial Buildings of any type
  • Residential Buildings of 4 Stories or more
  • Government-owned buildings
  • Parking Garages

Who can benefit?

  • For-profit owners of commercial buildings
  • For-profit owners of Apartment Buildings (4 or more stories)
  • Designers of Government Buildings
    •  Architects
    •  Engineers
    •  ESCO’s
    •  Energy Consultants

Time Frame

For Commercial Building Owners, the section 179D deduction may be claimed for new construction or improvements placed into service between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2016. Form 3115, Change in Accounting Method, may be used to retroactively take the deduction in current year tax filings and avoid amending previous year returns.

The designers of government-owned buildings are able to take the 179D deduction for all “open tax years” (generally 3 years from the date of filing). For property placed into service in previous years, the taxpayers are required to amend their returns.

Additional 179D Resources

  1. Energy Policy Act of 2005: Original bill enacting Section 179D
  2. Title 26 USCS §179D: Original Tax Law
  3. 2006-26 IRB; Notice 2006-52; Initial IRS guidance setting forth the process allowing building owners to take the 179D Deduction; including certification requirements, inspections, and energy modeling guidelines.
  4. 2008-14 IRB; Notice 2008-40: Allows Government buildings to allocate to designers, expands on the specific technologies the DOE must approve, adjustments to the partially qualifying percentages (10% for building envelope), also extends 179D to the end of 2008.
  5. 2011-04 IRB; Rev. Proc. 2011-14: Primarily allows for the use of Form 3115, Change in Accounting Method. Allows taxpayers to take 179D deductions without having to amend prior year tax returns. For both private and public sector buildings.
  6. 2012-17 IRB; Notice 2012-26; Adjusts the partially qualifying percentages to 15% for HVAC  and 25% for Lighting.
  7. 2012-41 IRB; Rev. Proc. 2012-39: Clarifies that designers taking the 179D deduction for Government-owned buildings may not use Form 3115, Change in Accounting Method.
  8. Public Law 110-343: Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008: Extends 179D through the end of 2013.
  9. Memorandum; AM2010-007: Addresses the application of the 179D deduction to flow through entities.
  10. Public Law 113-295: Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014; Extends 179D through the end of 2014.
  11. NREL /TP-550-40467: Energy Savings Modeling and Inspection Guidelines for Commercial Building Federal Tax Deductions
  12. Department of Energy List of Approved Energy Modeling Software 
  13. IRS Form 3115, Change in Accounting Method 
  14. Public Law 114-113: Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016; Extends 179D through the end of 2016 and increases the ASHRAE 90.1-2001 efficiency standards to ASHRAE 90.1-2007 for property placed into service after January 1st, 2016
  15. Public Law No: 115-123: Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018; Extends 179D through the end of 2017.