What Tax Incentives Are Available When Buying My Tesla?


There are a number of tax incentives available when purchasing your Tesla depending on which model you choose and where you live. Here’s my overview of incentives available to US residents. Please note that I’m not a tax advisor, so be sure to do your own research and consult a tax professional.

Federal Tax Incentives

When I purchased my Tesla Model S back in 2014, I received a $7,500 Federal tax credit, an incentive that’s still available to new car buyers as of today (not available to CPO models). But what are the rules behind it and what does the credit mean to me?

According to the Internal Revenue Code Section 30D entitled “Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit”,

For vehicles acquired after December 31, 2009, the credit is equal to $2,500 plus, for a vehicle which draws propulsion energy from a battery with at least 5 kilowatt hours of capacity, $417, plus an additional $417 for each kilowatt hour of battery capacity in excess of 5 kilowatt hours. The total amount of the credit allowed for a vehicle is limited to $7,500.”

The smallest size battery for the Model S, at the time of this writing, is 70 kWh and will max out the federal credit at $7,500, not to be mistaken for a rebate or refund.

Too bad there’s a $7,500 cap! Just for fun, and assuming there weren’t a cap, a 70 kWh Model S would receive $417 for every kWh exceeding 5 kWh resulting in over $27,000 in tax credits! A 90 kWh Tesla would receive an additional $8,340 in credits making for a grand total of over $35,000 in tax credits.

These credits are issued by the Fed to incentivize adoption of clean energy vehicles and will go into a phase out period once 200,000 vehicles are manufactured by that automaker.

Qualified Plug-In Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit (IRC 30D) Phase Out
The qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicle credit phases out for a manufacturer’s vehicles over the one-year period beginning with the second calendar quarter after the calendar quarter in which at least 200,000 qualifying vehicles manufactured by that manufacturer have been sold for use in the United States (determined on a cumulative basis for sales after December 31, 2009) (“phase-out period”). Qualifying vehicles manufactured by that manufacturer are eligible for 50 percent of the credit if acquired in the first two quarters of the phase-out period and 25 percent of the credit if acquired in the third or fourth quarter of the phase-out period.

With Tesla’s leading production and sales figures, it will be interesting to see what happens to Federal incentives once Tesla crosses the 200,000 vehicles manufactured threshold.

There are implications on which year the tax credit applies to based on when you took delivery of your vehicle. If you were one of the lucky people that took delivery of a Model X in 2015, be sure to have read the fine print on IRC 30D when you file your taxes.

State Incentives

In addition to the Federal tax credit, some states offer state rebates for qualifying battery electric vehicle (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) purchases. The following states provide BEV incentives in the form of a refund for your qualifying purchase of a Tesla:

  • California – $2,500
  • Delaware – $2,200
  • Colorado – $6,000
  • Louisiana – $8,000
  • Massachusetts – $2,500
  • Maryland – $3,000
  • Pennsylvania – $2,000
  • Tennessee – $2,500
  • Utah – $1,500

Note that each one of these programs can have its own nuances. There are minimum ownership periods (3 years in Massachusetts), income caps ($500K for joint filers in CA) and other qualifying circumstances to consider. Before you count your money, check the rules for your specific state and make sure you qualify.

For example, when I purchased my Model S in 2014 the current MA state tax credit was no longer available. Since then it’s been put back in place. That was certainly bad timing on my part!

Business Deductions


The door sticker of Model X VIN #001, owned by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Photo via Twitter, posted by @kalud.

You may have heard about a “$25,000 Hummer Tax Loophole” especially as it relates to the Model X, but what is that and does it apply to you?

Tax Section 179 allows businesses to take deductions for equipment and investments that are put into service. For vehicles, there’s a specific section that states cars used for 50% or more in your business can deduct up to $11,060, and slightly more for trucks.

SUVs or Crossover Vehicles with GVWR above 6,000 lbs. get an even larger deduction of $25,000. This is the “Hummer Tax Loophole” as the Hummer weighed in at somewhere around 6,500 pounds. GVWR is the weight of the vehicle with passengers and/or equipment. The Model X has a curb weight of 5,334 lbs. but it turns out that its GVWR is 6,768 pounds hence it qualifies for the Section 179 deduction.

That said, if you buy or lease a Model X and use it 50% or more for business you could deduct up to $25,000 in depreciation in the first year you acquire the vehicle versus depreciating it over time. The rationale is that businesses are incentivized to take the tax deductions up front there by allowing them to invest more into the business, earlier.

Note that the Section 179 deduction applies to both new and used vehicles, although I think we’ll see few used Model Xs in 2016.


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