Solar industry officials see hope that a property tax will not hit the solar-leasing market in Arizona as expected, citing discussions with the governor and lawmakers.
The solar-rooftop-leasing industry had scheduled a protest at the state Capitol on Wednesday to oppose property taxes on leased solar panels that could kick in later this year. But the protest was canceled.
“Due to the progress that has been made with preventing a tax increase on tens of thousands of solar users in Arizona, we are postponing the protest,” said Jason Rose, a spokesman for a group called TUSK, or “Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed.”
State law says solar panels that generate power primarily used on site do not add value to property and are not included in the valuation for property tax purposes.
However, the Arizona Revenue Department last year interpreted that law to mean that solar panels that are leased should be subject to valuation for tax purposes, because leased panels are not owned by the property owner.
Arizona would be the only state to assess property taxes on leased rooftop solar panels, Rose said.
The department began sending notices to the owners of those systems, solar-leasing companies such as Sunrun Inc. and SolarCity Corp. of California, telling them the property they own in Arizona would be valued like any other power plant for taxation purposes, said department spokesman Sean Laux.
Based on that determination, a $30,000 solar panel array that is leased by a homeowner would be responsible for about $140 in property taxes in its first year, decreasing every year as the system depreciates, he said. The tax would be owed by the system owner, not the person leasing it, he said.
Revenue officials recently began issuing valuation notices to the solar-leasing companies that they would be taxed on the value of their installations in Arizona starting this fall.
Laux said the notice came in time for the companies to seek a remedy at the Legislature if they wanted to. But the industry-backed bill, SB 1467, sponsored by Sen. John McComish, R-Phoenix, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. The bill would clarify that solar panels are not subject to property tax, regardless of who owns them, when they produce power used on site by a home or business.