Are SREC Payments Considered Taxable?

Many states, including Massachusetts and New Jersey, have originated a market for Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs).  With the introduction of this new system, there are a lot of questions.  One question, that has been coming up more often than not, is regarding the tax status of SREC income.  Even though SRECs have been around for number of years in the United States, there is not a clear answer if SREC payments are considered taxble.

Most solar installers recommend that a customer speak to an accountant or attorney to get the best advice on how to treat the revenue stream.   You would think those in New Jersey, who have one of the longest running SREC markets, would have a better answer.  But, the New Jersey Clean Energy Program (NJCEP), posted more of the same on their website, “There is not a definitive ruling on this issue. We recommend you discuss the issue with your tax accountant and perhaps a tax lawyer.”  As you can tell, no one will step up and offer a resolution in fear of getting it wrong.

Others argue that only someone from the Internal Revenue Service can really answer the question if SREC income is taxable.  SRECTrade, one of the largest SREC aggregators in the country, was able to speak to a few individuals in the IRS about this issue.  The first thing they discovered was there was not an explicit ruling on how SREC income was handled.  That being said, the individuals at the IRS had to give their perspectives based on interpretations, rather than fact.  The question that the IRS would base their interpretation was if the SREC income was going to be used for profit.  If a person could confidently answer that the SREC income was not profit, than they would not be subject to taxes.  So you’re probably wondering why or how SREC income would not be considered profit.  This could hold true if the revenue from SRECs was used to recover the initial investment made for the solar energy system.    After the investment is recouped, all additional SREC income would be considered taxable and should be reported to the IRS.

Rodman CPA found the IRS issued a Private Letter Ruling (PLR) on the taxation of SREC income – PLR 201035003.  A PLR is a written statement in response to a request that was submitted by a tax payer.  In the ruling, Rodman CPA interprets “gross income is taxable unless specifically excludable from income”.  SREC income is not a rebate or a subsidy so it would not be considered excludable. Therefore, Rodman CPA believes that taxpayers should treat SREC payments as income.

In all honesty, I am not an expert on SREC revenue and I am just regurgitating information other people have already collected.  If you decide not to report the income, I want everyone to be forewarned that the IRS has the ability to request back taxes for the last seven years if they feel that you have improperly filed your returns.  Not to sound like a broken record, but…. until there is a definitive ruling, you should probably consult a tax attorney or tax accountant.  Best of luck!

Here are some resources if you want to investigate the topic further: