Tax Guide for Green Technology
As California continues to be the national leader in green technology, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) understands the need to inform businesses of the tax laws that come with this industry growth.
In this industry guide, you will find information on the following topics:
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Solar cells, solar panels and solar modules
A solar energy system is defined as any solar collector or other solar energy device that provides for the collection and distribution of solar energy and, where applicable, the storage of solar energy.
Generally, a contract to furnish and install a solar energy system onto a structure or realty is a construction contract which involves furnishing and installing both materials and fixtures. Construction contractors are the consumer of materials they furnish and install and the retailer of fixtures they furnish and install.
For more information about Construction Contractors, please see our Tax Guide for Construction Contractors or Regulation 1521, Construction Contractors.
Fixtures vs. materials
Solar components are considered materials when they function in the same manner as other materials such as roofing, windows, or walls and are incorporated into, attached to, or affixed to real property and, as such, lose their identity to become an integral and inseparable part of the real property. Examples of these types of solar panels include Photovoltaic (PV) integrated skylights, PV panels used to function as a roof on a parking lot shade structure, and PV integrated roofing tiles.
Solar components are considered fixtures when they become accessories to a building or other structure and do not lose their identity as accessories when installed. Examples of these types of solar panels include rack mounted solar panels installed on roofs and solar panels used in free-standing solar arrays.
How tax applies to the installation of solar panels
If the solar components you provide and install are considered materials, generally you are the consumer of materials. As a consumer, you owe tax on the cost to you of materials you provide and install in the performance of a construction contract.
If the solar components you provide and install are considered fixtures, generally you are the retailer of those fixtures. As a retailer, you owe tax on the selling price of the fixtures you provide and install in the performance of a construction contract. If the contract does not state the selling price of the fixture, the selling price shall be deemed to be the cost price of the fixture to you.
Solar rebates provided by a public utility company or a municipality are considered manufacturer rebates. These rebates are usually paid directly to the customer, or the customer assigns the rebate to the manufacturer, installer or retailer. Rebates paid by a third party do not decrease the selling price for tax purposes and should be included in the measure of tax.
Example: A solar installer enters into a time and material contract with a homeowner to provide and install roof mounted solar panels. The stated selling price of the solar panels in the contract is $20,000. The homeowner receives a $5,000 rebate and assigns it to the installer which reduces the contract price by $5,000. Tax still applies to the entire $20,000 selling price of the solar panels.
For more information about rebates, please see publication 113, Coupons, Discounts and Rebates.
Farm solar equipment
Solar power facilities may qualify as farm equipment and qualify for a partial exemption of the sales tax, currently 5.25 percent, for farming equipment and machinery that is primarily used in agricultural activities.
How does a system qualify?
- Demonstrate that a solar facility is specifically designed to provide power to qualifying machinery.
- The solar facility must be primarily used in the production and harvesting of agricultural products.
If you otherwise qualify for the farm equipment and machinery partial exemption, your solar power facilities that are tied to the local power grid but are not directly attached to qualifying farm equipment may qualify, if they are designed to generate power for such equipment and machinery.
To determine whether a solar power facility is primarily used (at least 50 percent of the time) in the production and harvesting of agricultural products, divide the total annual amount of power consumed by qualifying farm equipment and machinery by the total annual amount of power generated by the solar power facility.
For example, a solar facility producing 1,000 kilowatts of electricity annually to power qualified agricultural equipment that consumes 600 kilowatts of electricity annually would qualify for the partial exemption (600/1,000 = 60 percent).
For more information, please see publication 235g, Tax Exemption for Farm Solar.
CAEAFTA Sales and Use Tax Exclusion
Manufacturers of green technology may qualify to purchase manufacturing equipment without payment of California sales or use tax. More information about this program can be found on our webpage CAEATFA Sales and Use Tax Exclusion.
This program is administered by the California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority (CAEATFA). Please visit CAEATFA for information on:
- Application materials
- Application process
- SB 71 regulations
- Other program information
How to obtain the exclusion
- Complete the application and pay the fees
- Obtain a resolution from the CAEAFTA Board
- Provide the exemption certificate to your vendor
- Purchase the equipment on your approved "project"
A new law beginning on July 1, 2014 allows manufacturers to obtain a partial exemption of sales and use tax on certain manufacturing and research and development equipment purchases. To be eligible under this law, you must meet all three of these conditions:
- Be engaged in certain types of business, also known as a "qualified person."
- Purchase "qualified property."
- Use that qualified property for the uses allowed by this law.
For more information, see our Manufacturing Exemption page.
Rebates, Credits, Vouchers, and Partial Exemption from Sales and Use Tax on the Purchase of Vehicles.
California residents have many incentives when purchasing or leasing qualified vehicles that meet clean energy standards. Provided below is information about some rebates, credits, and partial exemptions that may apply to the purchase or lease of a new vehicle.
Partial Sales and Use Tax Exemption for Clean Cars 4 All Program
Recently enacted legislation, Senate Bill 1382 (stats. 2022, ch. 375) provides for a partial sales and use tax exemption on qualifying zero or near-zero (zero) emission motor vehicles (vehicles) purchased or leased by qualified buyers. The partial sales and use tax exemption is operative from January 1, 2023 through December 31, 2027. Eligibility for the exemption is based on the buyer’s household income level, where they reside, and the vehicle leased or purchased.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB), in association with local air districts, administers the Clean Cars 4 All program (CC4A). The program is designed to provide incentives to lower-income California drivers to scrap their older, high-polluting motor vehicles and replace them with zero emission vehicles. The current CC4A program provides qualified buyers with grants of up to $9,500 for California residents who purchase or lease an eligible vehicle and meet certain residence and income requirements.
To qualify for the partial exemption, you must:
- Be a qualified buyer who has received an award letter from a participating air district, and
- Purchase a qualified motor vehicle for which a grant letter has been awarded to you under the Clean Cars 4 All Program.
For more information about how this partial exemption applies to motor vehicle dealers, please see our Tax Guide for Motor Vehicle Dealers.
Clean Vehicle Rebate Project
The Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) establishes rebates available for the purchase or lease of a new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, battery electric vehicle, or fuel cell electric vehicle.
Rebates of up to $7,000 are available for California residents who meet income levels that purchase or lease an eligible vehicle.
Please note: Sales or use tax is due on the total selling price of the vehicle. These rebates do not reduce the selling price of the vehicle or reduce sales or use tax that is due.
More information about the CVRP.
Federal Tax Credit
Federal tax credits are available for the purchase of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The tax credits are up to $7,500.
Please note: Sales or use tax is due on the total selling price of the vehicle. These federal tax credits do not reduce the selling price of the vehicle or reduce the sales or use tax that is due.
For more information about this federal tax credit, please visit the U.S. government source for fuel economy.
Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project
The California Air Resources Board (CARB), in partnership with the nonprofit organization, CALSTART, administers the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) to encourage the use of hybrid and zero-emission trucks and buses in California. HVIP provides discounts to vehicle purchasers by issuing voucher incentives for the purchase of qualifying trucks or buses.
For more information about HVIP and the list of eligible zero-emission buses, visit California HVIP webpage.
Partial Sales and Use Tax Exemption for Zero-Emission Transit Buses
Beginning October 9, 2019, through December 31, 2025, a partial sales and use tax exemption is available on eligible purchases and leases of zero-emission technology transit buses.
To receive the partial tax exemption, you must meet all three of these conditions:
- The transit bus is HVIP eligible.
- The purchaser is eligible under Revenue and Taxation Code section 6377.
- The bus is a transit bus under Revenue and Taxation Code section 6377.
For a complete list of eligible zero-emission buses, visit California HVIP webpage.
For more information about this partial exemption, please see our Tax Guide for Motor Vehicle Dealers.
- Regulation 1521, Construction Contractors
- Regulation 1533.1, Farm Equipment and Machinery
- Regulation 1671.1, Discounts, Coupons, Rebates and Other Incentives
Sales and Use Tax Law
- Sales and Use Tax Law Section 6010.8 , "Sale" and "purchase"; alternative energy and advanced transportation project