President Trump released his budget proposal for the 2018 FY on May 23, 2017, expanding on the budget blueprint he released in March. The budget proposal and blueprint reiterate the President’s tax reform proposals to lower the business tax rate and to eliminate special interest tax breaks. They also provide for significant changes in energy policy including: restarting the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, reinstating collection of the Nuclear Waste Fund fee and eliminating DOE research and development programs.

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On May 18, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) revised Notice 2016-31 (Notice), its recent guidance on meeting the beginning of construction requirements for wind and other qualified facilities (including biomass, geothermal, landfill gas, trash, hydropower, and marine and hydrokinetic facilities). For a discussion of the Notice, click here. The revisions clarify that the Continuity Safe Harbor is satisfied if a taxpayer places a facility into service by the later of (1) the calendar year that is no more than four calendar years after the calendar year during which construction of the facility began, or (2) December 31, 2016. The revisions also include additional language that the Notice applies to any project for which a taxpayer claims the Section 45 production tax credit (PTC) or the Section 48 investment tax credit (ITC) that is placed in service after January 2, 2013.

The revised Notice also corrects mathematical errors in an example illustrating the application of the begin construction guidance in the Notice to retrofitted facilities. The revised example is as follows:

A taxpayer owns a wind farm composed of 13 turbines, pad and towers that no longer qualify for either the PTC or the ITC. Each facility has a fair market value of $1 million. The taxpayer replaces components worth $900,000 on 11 of the 13 facilities at a cost of $1.4 million for each facility. The fair market value of the remaining original components at each upgraded facility is $100,000. Thus, the total fair market value of each upgraded facility is $1.5 million. The total expenditures to retrofit the 11 facilities are $15.4 million. The taxpayer applies the single project rule. Because the fair market value of the remaining original components of each upgraded facility ($100,000) is not more than 20 percent of each facility’s total value of $1.5 million, each upgraded facility will be considered newly placed in service for purposes of the PTC and the ITC. Accordingly, if the taxpayer pays or incurs at least $770,000 (or 5 percent of $15.4 million) of qualified expenditures in 2016, the single project will be considered to have begun construction in 2016. Provided the taxpayer also meets the Continuous Efforts Test, each upgraded facility will be treated as a qualified facility for purposes of the PTC. However, no additional PTC or ITC will be allowed with respect to the two facilities that were not upgraded.

Taxpayers should consider talking with their advisors to discuss the application of these rules to their projects.

The Internal Revenue Service recently issued Notice 2016-31, which provides much-needed guidance for wind and other qualified facilities on meeting the beginning of construction requirements in light of the 2015 statutory extension and modification of the production tax credit and the investment tax credit. The Notice also revises and adds to the list of excusable disruptions that will not be taken into account when determining whether the continuity requirement has been met, and provides additional examples demonstrating “physical work of a significant nature” for different types of qualified facilities.

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On March 17, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a Field Attorney Advice Memorandum, 20161101F (Dec. 3, 2015) (the FAA).  In the FAA, the IRS concluded that an investment in a partnership designed to deliver a tax credit allocation did not have a potential for profit or risk of loss, was not a meaningful interest in the venture and, as such, was not a bona fide partnership interest. In analyzing whether the arrangement was in substance a prohibited sale of tax benefits, the IRS determined that promotional materials and the partnership agreement indicated the investors were only interested in creating tax credits, not in operating a profitable refined coal business. The IRS relied heavily on Commissioner v. Culbertson, 337 U.S. 733 (1949), and Historic Boardwalk Hall LLC v. Commissioner, 694 F.3d 425 (3rd Cir. 2012), to determine that the investor did not have the requisite risk of loss or profit potential irrespective of creating tax credits, and that the partnership agreement indicated that the purported partner was to be indemnified for disallowed tax credits and deductions. An important fact for the IRS’analysis was that the payments to be made by the investor were nonrecourse, meaning the investor could walk away at any time. The IRS ruled that because “purported capital contributions are largely to be made in the future and only in relation to the amount of refined coal, and by extension tax credits generated, we believe that the payments are in exchange for tax benefits and do not constitute capital contributions in substance.”

Although a FAA is merely the opinion of one attorney at the IRS, it may be indicative of how the IRS evaluates these issues.