For new and existing homes, the federal government offers credits of up to 30 percent of the total cost for solar energy systems.

Save Some Green for 2013: Texas Tax Rebates and Incentives

With the holidays fast approaching, you might be thinking about the extra cash you’ll soon be parting with. Holiday meals, gifts and travel expenses can add up and put a strain on your budget.

Fortunately, the holiday season is also a good time to take stock of tax rebates, incentives and refunds on home and vehicle expenses. Read on to find some potentially overlooked sources of cash you may be able to take advantage of before the new year  – the following programs require you to make purchases or improvements prior to December 31, 2013, to qualify for rebates or refunds this tax season.

For Your Home

Texas Mortgage Credit Certificate: This program enables qualified homeowners to receive a mortgage tax credit – that is, a dollar-for-dollar reduction of tax liability – of 40 percent of your mortgage tax liability (not to exceed $2,000). This Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs program only applies if you’re a new buyer who hasn’t owned a home in the past three years, and who meets income and home purchase requirements and secures a mortgage through one of the state’s preferred mortgage lenders. If you’re an honorably discharged veteran and you haven’t previously participated in the program, you may waive the first-time homebuyer requirement.

Federal Energy/Home Improvement Rebates: The federal government offers a variety of tax credits via Energy Star for homeowners, including credits of up to $500 for home energy improvements on things like air conditioning/heating units, biomass stoves, roofs, insulation and water heaters. These credits only apply to improvements made prior to December 31, 2013, on existing, primary home properties. For new and existing homes (either primary or secondary residences), credits of up to 30 percent of the total cost exist for solar energy systems, small wind turbines and geothermal heat pumps.

Local Energy/Home Improvement Rebates: Although not strictly tax rebates, some area energy providers offer cash incentives or rebates for green energy/home improvement projects. College Station Utilities offers cash rebates for energy-efficient HVAC unit installations. Meanwhile, Bryan Texas Utilities offers  incentives for installing efficient insulation, windows and solar screens via its Smart Home program.

Solar or Wind-Powered Devices Texas Property Tax Exemptions: Homeowners who choose to install solar or wind-powered devices on their homes (such as solar panels), may receive a state property tax exemption equal to the amount of the device or improvement itself.  Although you’d still owe property tax for the value of your home prior to the improvement, any taxes on the solar or wind additions/improvements would be exempt. Make your improvement prior to year-end to qualify.

For Your Vehicle

Although the Texas legislature just passed a $2,500 rebate for plug-in and hybrid vehicles purchased in-state, The Green Autoblog reports these won’t be available in time for the 2013 tax season. In the meantime, consider the following options:

Federal Tax Credits for Plug-in HybridsIf you’re planning on purchasing an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, the federal government is offering income tax credits of up to $7,500 for approved cars. Check for additional details, such as the approved cars list and necessary forms. It’s worth noting that certain car models are phased out from the program over time, so if you’ve been planning on purchasing a hybrid on the list, you may want to do so before year end to qualify for the tax credit.

Off-Road Vehicles Texas Fuel Tax Refund: Boat owners, rejoice! The State of Texas offers tax refunds on fuel used to power non-highway vehicles, such as boats. Fuel used for tractors, mowers, and other off-highway vehicles qualifies, too.

Taking advantage of home and vehicle tax benefits to which you’re entitled can add some extra goodies to your holiday festivities. Who knows? It might just help you add more stuffing into the family stockings!

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