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The Truth About the New Clean Vehicle Tax Credit

October 26, 20238 min read


Understanding the Basics: A Deep Dive into AGI, Tentative Tax, and MAGI

In the world of taxes, understanding the foundational concepts is crucial, especially for solopreneurs, 1099 contractors, and small business owners. If you're in this bracket, earning between $100k to $500k annually, it's essential to grasp these basics to make informed decisions about your tax strategies. Let's delve into three key terms: Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), Tentative Tax, and Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI), and see how they tie into the New Clean Vehicle Tax Credit.

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI): AGI represents your total income minus specific deductions. It's the starting point for many tax calculations and determines your eligibility for several tax credits and deductions. For solopreneurs and small business owners, this might include business expenses, half of the self-employment tax, and contributions to SEP-IRAs or SIMPLE IRA plans.

Why it matters: Your AGI can significantly influence the tax benefits you're eligible for. A lower AGI might qualify you for certain tax credits, while a higher AGI might phase you out of others.

Tentative Tax: Once you've determined your AGI, the next step is to figure out your tentative tax. This is essentially the initial calculation of the tax owed based on your taxable income, before any credits are applied. It's a pivotal figure because it sets the stage for the final tax amount after all deductions, credits, and other adjustments are made.

Why it matters: Knowing your tentative tax helps you understand your tax liability before credits come into play. It's a snapshot of what you might owe without any additional interventions.

Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI): While AGI is a common term in tax lingo, MAGI is a bit more specialized. It's your AGI with certain deductions added back in. MAGI is used to determine eligibility for specific tax benefits, including the New Clean Vehicle Tax Credit.

Why it matters: Even if your AGI is within a favorable range, your MAGI might push you over the threshold for certain tax benefits. It's crucial to know both figures to fully understand your tax situation.

Tying It All Together: The New Clean Vehicle Tax Credit The New Clean Vehicle Tax Credit is a prime example of why understanding these concepts is crucial. Your AGI and MAGI can determine your eligibility for the credit. If your MAGI is over a certain threshold, you might find yourself ineligible for the credit, even if you've made a qualifying purchase.

Personal Touch: Take the story of AJ, for instance. AJ invested in solar panels for his home, lured by the promise of a $15,000 tax credit. However, due to effective tax strategies we had implemented, his tax liability was already significantly reduced. As a result, he couldn't utilize the tax credit at all. Had AJ consulted with us before making the purchase, he might have made a different decision. It's a stark reminder of the importance of understanding your tax picture and consulting with experts before making significant financial decisions.


The New Clean Vehicle Credit: What You Need to Know

Historical Context

In the past, many electric vehicle buyers, especially those who opted for Teslas in 2022, found themselves in for a surprise when they realized they didn't qualify for any vehicle tax credits. This was a significant blow for many, including our client, AM, who was taken aback when we processed his 2022 taxes. The reason? A manufacturer cap on the old credit system, which Tesla had reached, leaving many of its buyers without the anticipated tax relief.

Inflation Reduction Act: A Game Changer

The Inflation Reduction Act brought about a much-needed change, revamping the credit system for electric vehicles. While the Act encompasses various provisions, its impact on the clean vehicle credit stands out, offering a fresh breath of relief for many electric vehicle enthusiasts.

New vs. Used Vehicle Credit: Know the Difference

New Vehicle Credit: The credit for new vehicles comes in two tiers: $3,750 or $7,500. The qualifying amount depends on the vehicle's assembly location and the origin of its components. The federal government has already determined these amounts, and for a comprehensive list of qualifying vehicles and their respective credit amounts, readers can refer to our detailed post here.

Used Vehicle Credit: For those considering a used electric vehicle, the credit calculation differs. The credit is the lesser of 30% of the purchase price or $4,000. However, like the new vehicle credit, it's subject to the taxpayer's income and tax liability limitations. Additionally, to qualify, the used vehicle's purchase price must be under $25,000, and it should be a pre-approved make, model, and year, as listed in the same table.

Commercial Credit: A Different Ballgame

For businesses or commercial vehicle buyers, the credit landscape shifts. The commercial credit is based on the depreciable basis of the vehicle after section 179 deductions, compared against 30% of its net depreciable basis. Furthermore, for vehicles weighing over 14,000 pounds, the maximum credit jumps from $7,500 to a whopping $40,000, making it a significant consideration for businesses eyeing larger electric vehicles.

The landscape of clean vehicle credits has seen significant changes, offering both opportunities and challenges. Whether you're an individual buyer or a business, it's crucial to stay informed and make decisions that align with your financial goals. As always, we're here to guide you through these complexities, ensuring you make the most of the available credits.


Key Caveats to Consider

Income Limitations:

When considering the new clean vehicle credit, it's essential to understand the income limitations that come into play. The credit's value is directly tied to your tax liability, which is influenced by your income. Here's a breakdown:

  • The Dual Challenge: The clean vehicle credit poses a unique challenge. On one hand, your income needs to be high enough to have a significant tax liability to claim the credit. On the other, it shouldn't exceed the set thresholds to remain eligible for the credit.

  • A Real-World Example: Consider a single filer with no dependents earning $50,000 annually. Their tax liability would be just over $4,000. So, even if they qualify for a $7,500 credit, they can only benefit from $4,000 of it. Now, if the same individual's adjusted gross income rises to about $75,000, their tax liability would exceed the $7,500 credit. This means the sweet spot for single filers to fully utilize the credit lies between an adjusted gross income of $75,000 and $150,000.

Tax Liability Limitations:

Understanding tax liability is crucial when considering the clean vehicle credit. Here's why:

  • The Common Misconception: Many individuals often confuse tax liability with the actual tax owed. This confusion stems from factors like withholding from W-2s, credits for children and other dependents, and the final figure that appears on the 1040 total tax. It's vital to differentiate between these concepts to grasp the credit's real value.

  • The Bottom Line: Your tax liability is the total amount of tax on your income. The actual tax owed is what remains after subtracting prepayments, credits, and other deductions. The clean vehicle credit is applied to your tax liability, not the tax owed.

No Rollover:

One of the most critical aspects of the clean vehicle credit is its "use it or lose it" nature. Here's what you need to know:

  • Immediate Use: If you qualify for a credit but don't have the tax liability to claim its full value, you can't carry forward the unused portion to future years. For instance, if you're eligible for a $7,500 credit but only have a $4,000 tax liability, you'll lose out on the remaining $3,500.

  • A Gentle Reminder: As this is a relatively new provision, many might not be aware of this limitation. It's essential to be informed and make vehicle purchasing decisions with this in mind.

For our solopreneurs, 1099 contractors, and small business owners, remember that our overarching goal is to minimize your tax liability as much as possible. While the clean vehicle credits offer potential savings, in many cases, they might not provide significant benefits. Always consult with your tax team before making major financial decisions to ensure you're maximizing your savings and making informed choices.


Navigating the intricacies of tax credits, especially the new clean vehicle credit, can be a daunting task. While the potential savings are enticing, it's essential to approach these credits with a clear understanding of their limitations and benefits. As solopreneurs, 1099 contractors, and small business owners, every financial decision can significantly impact your bottom line.

Remember the story of AJ? He was promised a substantial tax credit for his solar panels, only to find out he couldn't benefit from it due to his already reduced tax liability. Such situations underscore the importance of being well-informed and seeking expert advice before making major financial commitments.

Don't navigate these waters alone. Whether you're considering purchasing an electric vehicle, investing in solar panels, or exploring other tax-saving opportunities, let us be your guiding light.

  • Engage with Us: Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. Have you benefited from the clean vehicle credit? What challenges did you face?

  • Book a Consultation: If you're unsure about your eligibility or want to understand how the clean vehicle credit can benefit you, schedule an appointment with us. Our team is here to ensure you make the most of every tax-saving opportunity.

  • Stay Informed: Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on our social media channels to stay updated on the latest tax news, tips, and insights tailored for you.

Remember, knowledge is power. Equip yourself with the right information, seek expert advice, and make financial decisions that propel you towards your goals.

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Neal McSpadden

Neal went from owing the IRS over $1,300,000 to Zero and in so doing discovered the world of tax planning. Since 2011 he's helped tens of thousands of clients save hundreds of millions of dollars on overpaid income taxes.

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A tax deduction reduces the amount of your income that is subject to taxation, which in turn can lower your tax liability. Common deductions include expenses like mortgage interest, student loan interest, and business expenses. A tax credit, on the other hand, is a direct reduction of your tax bill. This means if you owe $1,000 in taxes and have a $200 tax credit, your tax due would be reduced to $800. Some popular credits include the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and credits for energy-efficient home improvements.

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I'm thinking of hiring an independent contractor instead of an employee. Are there different tax implications for each?

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