New York enacted legislation in July 2005 exempting the sale and installation of residential solar-energy systems from the state’s sales and compensating use taxes. The exemption applies to solar-energy systems that utilize solar radiation to produce energy designed to provide heating, cooling, hot water and/or electricity. In 2012 the exemption was also extended to commercial solar energy systems, effective January 1, 2013. In 2015 the exemption was extended to solar systems that are owned by third party owners, who provide solar electricity to residential and commercial users. Both solar lease payments and the receipts of the sale of electricity by such systems are exempt from state sales and use tax.
The exemption does not apply to solar pool heating or other recreational applications. The laws also permit local governments (municipalities and counties) to grant an exemption from local sales taxes. If a city with a population of 1 million or more chooses to grant the local exemption, it must enact a specific resolution that appears in the state law. Local sales tax rates in New York range from 1.5% to more than 4% in addition to the general state sales tax rate of 4%.
The New York Department of Taxation and Finance publishes a variety of sales tax reports detailing local tax rates and exemptions, including those for solar energy equipment. The solar sales tax list (Publication 718-S) is updated frequently. The New York Department of Taxation and Finance has issued a small amount of additional guidance and instructions on how to claim the exemption in Publication TSB-M-05(11)S (residential) and Publication TSB-M-12(14)S (commercial).