By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On October 18, 2017, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced to the Senate the Renewable Chemicals Act of 2017 (S. 1980), which aims to establish a short-term tax credit for the production of renewable chemicals and for investment in renewable chemical production facilities. If enacted, the legislation would allow taxpayers to claim a production credit equal to $0.15 per pound of biobased content of each renewable chemical produced. In lieu of the production credit, taxpayers would be able to claim an investment credit equal to 30 percent of the basis of any eligible property that is part of a renewable chemical production facility. The bipartisan bill was co-sponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Al Franken (D-MN), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and is companion legislation to H.R. 3149, which was introduced in the House in June 2017 by Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ).
On February 9, 2017, Illinois State Senators Andy Manar and Chapin Rose introduced legislation aimed at growing Illinois’ biobased economy by providing incentives under the Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit Program Act. The program would provide credit against taxes for eligible Illinois businesses that produce renewable chemicals within the state using biomass feedstock and other renewable sources. The legislation defines a renewable chemical as a building block with a biobased content of at least 50 percent. According to the legislation, eligible businesses will be required to submit to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity an application for the tax credit that includes the amount of renewable chemical produced during the calendar year and any other information needed to verify eligibility as identified by the Department. The proposed tax credit will not exceed $1 million for businesses that have been in operation in Illinois for five years or less, and $500,000 for businesses that have been in operation longer than five years.
On July 6, 2016, Hawaii Governor David Ige signed SB 2652 Related to Taxation -- Locally Produced Renewable Energy. This bill establishes a five-year renewable fuels production tax credit. The tax credit will take effect in 2017 and will provide 20 cents per gallon of ethanol (or 76,000 British thermal units (Btu) of renewable fuel) with a cap of $3 million. The tax credit is open to companies producing at least 15 billion Btu of fuel from renewable feedstocks per year. Acceptable fuels include, but are not limited to, ethanol, hydrogen, biodiesel, biogas, renewable jet fuel, and other biofuels.
On April 5, 2016, the biofuel trade associations Advanced Biofuels Business Council, Algae Biomass Organization, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board, and Renewable Fuels Association sent a letter to House and Senate Leaders asking for a multiyear extension of advanced biofuel tax credits. The six organizations are specifically asking that the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property, the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit, the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit, and the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property through the Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015 are extended before they expire at the end of 2016. Other energy production tax credits have been extended, and the biofuel trade associations argue that extending certain energy tax provisions and not others creates investment uncertainty across the energy sector, and puts biofuel producers at a disadvantage.
On April 6, 2016, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed Senate File 2300, creating a five cent tax credit, per pound of renewable chemicals produced from biomass feedstock between 2017 and 2026. Spokesman for Governor, Ben Hammes, stated, "Gov. Branstad believes this biochemical tax program will go even further to continue spurring economic growth all over Iowa, creating more high-quality jobs and attracting investments in renewable chemical manufacturing and advanced bio-refining." The bill passed the Iowa Senate on March 16, 2016, with a vote of 46-3, and the Iowa House on March 28, 2016, with a vote of 95-1.
The tax credit will take effect July 1, 2016, and will be capped at $105 million for each fiscal year through June 30, 2021. After 2021, the general assembly will determine if the tax credit limitation will be continued. The law does not apply to renewable chemicals that are sold to be used as food, feed, or fuel, but does include building-block chemicals, supplements, vitamins, nutraceuticals, and pharmaceuticals as long as there is no caloric value. Biomass-derived ethanol, fatty acid methyl esters, and butanol are eligible for the credit as long as they are produced and sold for uses other than food or fuel.
On March 17, 2016, the Iowa State Senate voted 46-3 to approve Senate File 2300, a bill creating a production tax credit for renewable chemicals. The legislation was created to attract investment in renewable chemical manufacturing and biorefining to Iowa, and covers the production of higher value biochemicals from plant materials left over from biofuel production. The House Ways and Means Committee approved House File 2288, a companion bill, and sent the measure to the House floor. Senate File 2300 allows eligible businesses to claim a five cent tax credit per pound of renewable chemicals produced from biomass feedstock between 2017 and 2026. Tax credits resulting from the bill will be capped at $105 million per year, with a limit of $10 million per company. The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) released an announcement in favor of the renewable chemical tax credit. Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President of BIO's Industrial & Environmental Section, stated: "Renewable chemicals help protect the environment and create new jobs. Iowa's new tax credit will encourage biotechnology and renewable chemical companies to make investments and deploy innovative homegrown technology in Iowa. BIO will continue to work with the Iowa legislature, other states and the federal government to level the playing field in economic development incentives for renewable chemical and biobased manufacturing technologies."
On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed the omnibus spending bill, or Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, into law. The $1.1 trillion spending bill includes the retroactive extension of the $1 per gallon tax credit for biodiesel and renewable diesel blenders through December 31, 2016, while extending the second-generation biofuel production credit through January 1, 2017. In addition to extending tax credits for biofuels, the bill also funds a wide range of government programs through the end of 2016, including the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (BAP), and the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
On August 18, 2015, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a notice containing tax code information for 2014 biodiesel tax credits. The focus of the notice is the treatment of credits under Internal Revenue Code Section 6426(c) and (d) that allow a biodiesel blender to claim a credit against tax liability. Generally, the tax liability is in the form of excise taxes imposed by Sections 4041 and 4081 and is reported on Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return, and the Section 6426 credits are claimed on Schedule C (Form 720), Claims. The IRS notice informs claimants about the federal income tax treatment of these credits and illustrates the application of the income tax treatment for claimants.
On July 29, 2015, a bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide credits for the production of renewable chemicals and investments in renewable chemical production facilities, and for other purposes (H.R. 3390) was introduced in the House. The bill would expand production and investment tax credits that are currently available to renewable energy producers to apply also to renewable chemical manufacturers. The program allows manufactures to choose either: (1) a 15 cents per pound production credit for eligible renewable chemicals; or (2) a 30 percent investment tax credit for the construction of renewable chemical production facilities. The credits will be in effect for five years after the bill is enacted, and will be capped at $500 million over the life of the program. The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has expressed its support for H.R. 3390, restating the need to create a level playing field in the U.S. for industrial biotech companies to innovate and develop new renewable chemicals and biobased products.
Iowa Senate bill SF 350: the Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit Program was introduced in March 2015, and is awaiting review in the Ways & Means Committee. If passed, the legislation will allow producers of renewable chemicals in Iowa to claim a five cent per pound tax credit, with a maximum credit of $1 million for businesses operating in Iowa for five years or less, and a maximum credit of $500,000 for businesses operating in Iowa for more than five years. Chemicals must have at least a 50 percent biobased content to qualify as renewable chemicals under the bill, and must also be sold and used for purposes other than food, feed, or fuel.