Are you performing a Voluntary Action Program Clean Up?

Are you cleaning up contamination for a release from a petroleum underground storage tank (BUSTR)?

If you answered yes to either of these questions you may qualify for a significant federal tax incentive which allows you to deduct the clean up costs incurred this year as well as years past. Under the tax incentive, certain environmental cleanup costs at targeted sites may be fully deducted by eligible taxpayers in the year in which they are incurred, rather than having to be capitalized and spread over a period of years.  

What types of expenses could be deductible?

  • Site assessment and investigation;
  • Site monitoring;
  • Cleanup costs;
  • Operation and maintenance costs;
  • State voluntary cleanup program oversight fees; and
  • Removal of demolition debris.

Amended Returns to Capture Costs Spent in Previous Years

Even if you incurred such expenses in years past, but failed to take advantage of the tax incentive you may still be entitled to the deduction.   The excerpt below is from the U.S. EPA tax guide describing the potential to amend prior year returns:

"The Brownfields Tax Incentive is not frequently used, despite its great potential to support property cleanup and reuse. A key reason for the limited use of the incentive may be uncertainty over its availability over an extended period of time. The tax provision has never had long-term authorization and Congress allowed the provision to lapse five times since it was first introduced in 1997. However, retroactive reauthorizations allowed coverage to be available throughout the entire time period from the incentive’s introduction in 1997 until today. In December 2010, the incentive was reauthorized for two years and is retroactive to January 1, 2010. The incentive will remain in effect through December 31, 2011.

Site owners may want to consult their state program or a tax attorney to determine activities that may be considered qualified expenditures. If a taxpayer decides to claim the incentive in future years because cleanup was completed during one of the periods in which the incentive’s authority lapsed, an amended tax return can be filed up to three years after the original return was filed. An amended tax return must be filed within two years if a refund is sought.

Requirements to Qualify for the Tax Incentive

  1. Ownership- The property must be owned by the taxpayer incurring the eligible cleanup expenses, and be used in a trade or business or for the production of income.
  2. Contamination- Hazardous substances or petroleum contamination must be present or potentially present on the property.
  3. Brownfield Property- Taxpayers must obtain a statement from a designated state agency (typically, the state’s environmental agency overseeing the state’s voluntary cleanup program (VCP)) that confirms the site is a brownfield and therefore eligible for the tax incentive. Participation in a state VCP satisfies this requirement.  In Ohio, the VCP is known as the Voluntary Action Program (VAP).

U.S. EPA Resources on Available Federal Tax Incentives

The federal tax incentive for clean up of brownfield properties is not the only tax incentive that may be available for brownfield redevelopment projects.  U.S. EPA has released its 2011 Tax Guide which summarizes a variety of tax incentives for various brownfield and renewable energy projects.  Possible tax incentives include:

  • Brownfield Expensing Tax Incentive:
  • New Markets Tax Credits
  • Low Income Housing Tax Credit
  • Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit:
  • Energy Efficiency Tax Credits:
  • Renewable Energy Tax Credits

U.S. EPA Brownfield’s Tax Incentive Web Page also contains additional resources which describe various tax incentives for brownfield clean up and revitalization.