Solar credit worth nothing if no tax is due
My wife and I are having a solar water heater installed. We are entitled to a Hawaiian Electric Co. rebate of $1,000, a federal tax credit of 30 percent and a state tax credit of 35 percent. However, we are both on fixed incomes and therefore have no state tax liability. The state tax office informed us that since we have no tax liability, the state tax credit is worthless to us. We feel this is discrimination. Is there any way we could possibly get a state credit? Also, is the state going to allow seniors on fixed incomes with no tax liabilities any benefits in the future?
Answer: For now you'll just have to be satisfied with the federal tax credit and rebate from HECO.
Sandra Yahiro, deputy director of the state Department of Taxation, explained that the Renewable Energy Technologies Income Tax Credit is a nonrefundable credit.
"This means that if the tax credit exceeds the taxpayer's Hawaii income tax liability, the tax credit is not refunded to the taxpayer," she said.
However, it can be used to offset future income tax liabilities until the credit is used up.
Unfortunately, not having a state income tax liability -- now or in the future -- means you will not receive any tax benefits for purchasing a renewable energy technology system, Yahiro said.
Such systems include solar and wind power, hydroelectricity and biofuels.
The Lingle administration did submit a bill this past legislative session, proposing to allow the tax credit to be refundable to taxpayers who have low Hawaii taxable income, including retired taxpayers on fixed incomes with no state income tax liability.
However, Yahiro said the bill did not pass the Legislature.
Q: We had a problem with Oceanic Cable equipment, so I went to pick up new equipment. However, they wouldn't give me the new equipment because my husband and I have different last names and the account is in his name. I assume they knew I was picking up the equipment. I think this discriminates against married couples who have different last names. Can you look into this?
A: It's not a matter of what your name is, but whether the customer whose name is on an account authorizes whatever charges are made to the account, said Sandy Davis, director of customer care for Oceanic Cable.
"Part of the process is to validate who the customer is," she said. "So, when people have different last names, we have to be informed of that right upfront. If it is under the husband's name, the husband has to tell us, 'My wife has a different name, I'm approving this,' so she can come in and change the service or pick up equipment."
Apparently, that information was not relayed before you showed up at Oceanic's office, or it was not noted on the account.
Asking for authorization from the account holder is "not being discriminatory," Davis said. "It's just being cautious as to who's taking out our equipment."
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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