On Tuesday, December 16, 2014, the U.S. Senate passed the tax extenders bill by a vote of 76-16, extending a number of energy tax incentives through the end of the year. The Senate’s passage of H.R. 5771 followed the U.S. House of Representatives’ (House) approval earlier this month and the bill is expected to be signed into law by President Obama as early as this week.
The $42 billion bill includes extensions through the end of the year of nearly $10 billion in energy tax incentives, including the New Market Tax Credit in Section 45D, the Production Tax Credit in Section 45 (the PTC), and the bonus depreciation rules in Section 168(k).
Many were disappointed that some of the tax incentives – including the PTC – were extended retroactively only through the end of the year, meaning that tax payers have just a few weeks left to take advantage of them. There would have been far more certainty for companies looking to invest in renewable energy projects if the tax incentives were extended for one or more years beyond the end of 2014. Several lawmakers suggested that the two week extension was better than nothing, but the short extension period means that Congress has merely punted the need for greater tax reform in this area into 2015. As it stands, the energy tax incentives extended by this bill will have expired by the time Congress returns to Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2015, following its winter break. That means that Congress may be in the same place again next year under pressure to pass a year-end bill – instead of focusing on more comprehensive reform and a possible phase-out of the PTC.