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William Perez

Hybrid Tax Credit: Figuring the Maximum Credit Allowed

By March 16, 2006

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Today's tax question comes from Mike G. in Washington. He asks, "I think that there is an incorrect equation in your Hybrid Tax Credit article. I have seen multiple links (for example, the discussion over at hybridcars.com) to your article. You clearly indicate in a formula that the hybrid credit disappears if your tentative mimimum tax (Line 33 of Form 6251) exceeds your regular tax (Line 44 of Form 1040). What is the basis for this claim? Credits are subtracted from Line 46, after the AMT (which limits deductions) is computed. Do you have some secret IRS instructions that pertain only to the hybrid credit? If yes, please let me (and others) know. Regards."

The limitations on the hybrid credit are written into the law. The law is Internal Revenue Code Section 30B, found very near the end of the section at paragraph (g)(1). The law reads,

The credit allowed ... shall not exceed the excess (if any) of--
(A) the regular tax reduced by the sum of the credits allowable under subpart A and sections 27 and 30, over
(B) the tentative minimum tax for the taxable year.

Now, that is as clear as mud, right? The credits that the law refers to are the various credits I have listed in my article -- such as the child tax credit and the education credits. The maximum dollar limit for the hybrid credit is the regular tax liability (on the 2005 tax form is found on Form 1040 Line 44) minus all these credits, and only if the regular tax left over is still higher than your AMT. Confusing? Yep.

Some tax credits apply only against the regular tax liability. Other credits can be used against both the regular tax and the alternative minimum tax. And still other credits can be used against a wide range of extra taxes, such as the self-employment tax. All of this is written into the tax laws and is very hard to un-ravel unless you have a really good scorecard. The IRS publishes worksheets and schedules so that taxpayers can calculate the allowable amount of a credit. A good example is the child tax credit worksheet. I expect the IRS will create a similar worksheet or schedule for the hybrid credit.

So, no, I do not have any secret instructions from the IRS. In fact, the IRS has not released any details about the hybrid credit. I expect they are still trying to figure out all the details before they issue guidance to the public. But I am following this issue very closely, and I will let all of you know the minute I hear more information.

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