Engineering the Future

Environmental Tax Reform: Saving Green with Green Savings

11:15:00 AM on 04/13/2011

Well, it’s about that time of year when we scour the shoebox and file folders looking for those receipts we need to show Uncle Sam for our tax returns. Like all of you I dream of ways to pay less every year; and, like most of you, I fail to find them. This year however, I did get to claim the energy efficient insulation I installed in my basement ceiling. Of course, the write-off was a whopping $50, but in this economic cycle every penny counts. This was courtesy of the Federal government’s ENERGY START® tax credits for energy efficiency. While this program was targeted towards residential taxpayers, the new Better Buildings Initiative (BBI), laid out by the President in February, targets the commercial sector. Although the jury is still out as to whether the BBI will help the ailing economy overall, it could be the tipping point so desperately needed for the commercial sector’s comeback.


As of this writing, the BBI legislation is simply a proposal awaiting Congress. Whether Congress passes the BBI in its initial form, revised or reworked entirely, it is clear that energy consumption is at the top of the minds of Washington. Here is what we know from the White House’s proposal:


1. Tax Incentives – Under the current proposal the President wants Congress to alter the existing tax deduction for commercial building upgrades to a credit and increase the program by $1 billion. Currently section 179D of the tax code is used, but that could change with the passage of this proposal. 


2. More financing opportunities for Commercial Retrofits – The administration aims to make financing available to the smaller commercial projects through loans backed by the Small Business Administration. The President’s budget will also propose a new pilot program through the Department of Energy to guarantee loans for energy efficiency upgrades at hospitals, schools and other commercial buildings.


3. “Race to Green” for state and municipal governments that streamline regulations and attract private investment for retrofit projects – This section is to entice states with grant money for those who alter or develop codes and standards that promote and increase energy efficiencies. 


4. The Better Buildings Challenge – A direct challenge to CEO’s and university presidents to be greener. 


5. Training the next generation of commercial building technology workers – The government is looking into providing more workforce training in areas such as energy auditing and building operations.


Allowing building owners more tax incentives could provide enough enticement to get owners moving. The BBI looks to offer a more generous credit than its predecessor the Building STAR Energy Efficiency Act of 2010. This coupled with improving economic outlook might spur owners to begin renovations on existing structures or even develop new structures. Whatever the outcome of the BBI, clear signs from the government and Corporate America show us the country is moving towards more energy efficient buildings every day. Luckily, Kawneer is uniquely prepared for this with our vast line of products that improve building envelope energy efficiency. Not only could Kawneer products save you money on your energy bills, but they could also provide tax deductions and credits thanks to Uncle Sam.


Did you know?


Income taxation has been around globally for centuries, but has only consistently existed in America since the 16th Amendment officially became part of the Constitution in 1913. Prior to this, short lived income taxes were legislated and repealed constantly with less than 1% of the population actually paying income taxes.


Best regards,




Well done and thank you for the great work.


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