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Tax Day 2013: Does your plugin qualify for a tax credit?

Tax Day 2013 is a month away, and if you drive a plugin, your vehicle could qualify you for a wide range of federal, state, and local tax credits. Read on to see if you qualify, and get your paperwork together in plenty of time for Tax Day 2013. 

By John VoelckerGuest blogger / March 17, 2013

A Nissan Leaf tops off it's battery in Central Point, Ore., at one of the charging stations along Interstate 5. The Leaf is one of several electric cars that qualify for a sizable federal tax credit.

Jeff Bernard/AP/File


One month from today is Tax Day, April 15.

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Let us repeat that: Your Federal income taxes (and your state and local taxes too, if you live in places with their own income taxes) must be filed 31 days from today.

So consider this our friendly reminder to start getting your paperwork in order if you plan to take advantage of any of the Federal tax incentives for buying plug-in electric cars (or other alternative-fuel vehicles), or installing charging stations, during 2012.

The most widely-used such benefit is likely the Federal income-tax credit for purchase of a plug-in electric vehicle during 2012 (Form 8936).

About 53,000 plug-in electric cars were sold last year, each qualifying for at least some credit.

The credit ranges from $2,500 to $7,500, depending on the size of the car's battery pack. Below is a list of many cars that qualified for 2012 credits:

  • Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid: $2,500
  • Ford C-Max Energi: $3,750
  • Chevrolet Volt: $7,500
  • Fisker Karma: $7,500
  • Ford Focus Electric: $7,500
  • Mitsubishi i-MiEV: $7,500
  • Nissan Leaf: $7,500
  • Tesla Model S or Roadster: $7,500
  • Toyota RAV4 EV: $7,500

Note these credits can only be claimed by the car's first owner. If you leased your electric car, in general you cannot claim the credit, because the leasing company claims it and uses the money to lower the lease payment.

(There are a handful of exceptions to that rule, but only for certain compliance cars in California. As always, read the fine print on your lease and check with your tax advisor.)

There are also credits for purchase of larger, commercial plug-in trucks that range higher than $7,500.

Other Federal incentives include several that were restored or continued for 2012 as part of the last-minute budget deal on New Year's Day to avoid the so-called Fiscal Cliff.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

Among them are

  • A Federal tax credit of 10 percent of the purchase price, up to a maximum of $2,500, for the purchase of a two- or three-wheeled electric vehicle (Form 8834)
  • Restoration of a tax credit up to $1,000 for installing an electric-car changing station in a private home (Form 8911)
  • Restoration of the 30-percent tax credit, capped at $30,000, for purchase and installation of an electric-car charging station by businesses

(The Federal tax form numbers given include not only the forms themselves to fill out, but also instructions on how to complete them.)

In addition to Federal tax benefits, there are also numerous state, regional, local, and corporate incentives as well--far too many to cover here.

We recommend that you check with the list of incentives maintained by advocacy group Plug-In America, which is available online.

Remember, always check with a tax advisor if you're not 100 percent clear that you qualify for one or more of these credits.

Happy tax-day countdown, everyone.


The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best auto bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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