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Tesla, GM could score big as lobbyists push federal EV tax credit extension

Tesla and General Motors have lobbied hard for an extension as they deal with the coming reality of zero tax credits for their EVs.

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Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Tesla and General Motors are inching closer to the finish line with regards to a top priority its lobbyists have undertaken. We could see Congress pass an extension of the federal electric vehicle tax credit program before the end of the year.

Democratic Representatives Mike Thompson of California and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Richard Neal of Massachusetts introduced the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now Act last month, but now, it's gaining more attention as we creep toward the end of the year. Simplified as the GREEN Act, it packs numerous bits that satisfy both Democrats and Republicans.

Among them is an increase in the number of cars eligible for the federal electric car tax credit. Cramming the increase into the larger piece of legislation gives it a far better shot at passing, as is often the case with legislation. MarketWatch reported Friday that year-end lobbying has sped up and the GREEN Act is one bill that lobbyists are hoping to fast track.

Specifically, the bill amends the current federal program for electric car buyers and would give buyers a $7,000 tax credit when they file their taxes after purchasing a qualifying vehicle. That's $500 less than the current program, but the bill lifts the tax credit cap from 200,000 vehicles to 600,000. That would give GM and Tesla (which both reached the 200,000-vehicle limit) a lot more wiggle room.

GM and Tesla have argued the credit is incredibly beneficial to put more buyers in electric cars. Both automakers will also be at a disadvantage in the near future as other automakers begin rolling out their own EVs with a full tax credit available. (Every automaker has 200,000 credits available, but Tesla and GM have sold electric cars longer than other companies.)

In other words, why buy a GM-made electric car when, say, a Ford EV is ripe for a tax credit? None of GM's EVs will be eligible for any tax credit come March 2020. Tesla's final tax credits expire at the end of this year.

In another interesting change, the bill also includes a tax credit for pre-owned electric cars. Buyers would receive a base credit of $1,250 with a cap installed at $2,500 or 30% of the sale price.

We could see the bill pass as part of a tax package, if Congress feels so inclined.

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