How to Get Tax Credits and Exemptions for Solar Panels

The federal government offers a big tax break for going solar, but your state or local government might offer additional savings.

Solar panels on a red roof.

Rooftop solar panels are eligible for multiple tax breaks.

Westend61/Getty Images

Putting solar panels on your rooftop can offer benefits such as slowing climate change caused by fossil fuels, lowering your electricity bill and maybe even selling excess solar power back to the grid for a credit on your utility bill. It can also fatten your wallet, especially when you claim some of the tax exemptions available to you.

There are a number of solar panel tax credits and exemptions available at both the state and federal level. We'll guide you through all the tax breaks out there and how to take advantage of them.

Read more: CNET's Best Solar Companies

Can solar panels save you money?

Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.

Federal solar tax credit

The federal government currently offers a tax credit to homeowners and businesses that choose to install solar panels on a property. Known as the residential clean energy credit, it allows people to deduct up to 30% of the cost of installing solar panels. The credit was expanded and extended in 2022 under the Inflation Reduction Act, and will remain at 30% through 2032. It will drop to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034, before being phased out entirely in 2035.

The tax credit covers the cost of solar panels, labor for the installation process and additional equipment including wiring and energy storage devices like solar batteries.

One of the benefits of the federal credit is that it covers purchased solar systems, no matter how you finance them. Whether you buy your solar panels outright or choose to finance them with a loan, the tax credit is still available to you. It's even available if you are not a homeowner but live in a cooperative housing situation and will be paying for part of the installation. However, the credit does not apply if you lease solar panels: You must own them to get the tax credit.

To claim the solar investment tax credit, you will need to file IRS Form 5695 as part of your federal tax return. Following each step of the form will help you calculate your total deduction.

Considering Solar Panels?
Our email course will walk you through how to go solar

State-level exemptions

Each state offers its own line of exemptions and incentives to encourage people to purchase and install solar panels on their homes. The two most common are property tax exemptions and sales tax exemptions

a map of the United States showing which states have property tax or sales tax exemptions for solar panels
Zooey Liao/CNET

Property tax exemption

The most common state-level solar tax incentive is a property tax exemption. This allows homeowners to exempt the value of their solar energy system from the overall value of their property, which helps to keep their property taxes down. Because solar panels typically add value to a property, installing them would typically increase the amount of property taxes that you would have to pay.

The exact exemption will vary from state to state, but 30 states plus Washington, DC, offer some type of property tax exemption or exclusion for homeowners who install a solar system. Your solar system will be automatically excluded from your property value during assessments.

Sales tax exemption

The other commonly available tax incentive for solar system buyers is a sales tax exemption. This helps reduce the cost of purchasing a solar system by exempting the equipment and other parts of the system from the standard sales tax that would otherwise be applied to a retail sale or transaction.

The exemption status will depend on each state's laws. Some exempt all parts of a solar system purchase while others will only exclude certain components. There are 16 states that currently offer a sales tax exemption of some kind on solar systems. Sales tax exemptions should be applied automatically at the time of purchase.

How to claim solar tax exemptions

Claiming them is easy enough. While you will need to file an additional form to claim the federal tax credit, sales and property tax exemptions should be automatically applied. While sales tax exemptions are usually one-time deductions of 100% of the applicable sales tax, property tax exemptions have a bit more variation. Some property tax exemptions lapse after 10 or 20 years or are only for part of a solar system.

Researching before can also alert you to additional rebates from your state or utility, which are less common than the tax exemptions mentioned here.

Article updated on March 13, 2024 at 8:44 AM PDT

Our Experts

Written by 
AJ Dellinger
CNET staff -- not advertisers, partners or business interests -- determine how we review the products and services we cover. If you buy through our links, we may get paid. Reviews ethics statement
AJ Dellinger Contributor
AJ Dellinger is a contributor to CNET.
Why You Can Trust CNET
Experts Interviewed
Companies Reviewed
Products Reviewed

We thoroughly evaluate each company and product we review and ensure our stories meet our high editorial standards.