Federal financial supports aided the development of new projects, but limited data hinder an understanding of the effectiveness of tax expenditures. From fiscal year 2004 through 2013, programs at the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Energy (DOE), and the Treasury (Treasury) provided supports including outlays, loan programs, and tax expenditures.
Tax expenditures accounted for an estimated $13.7 billion in forgone revenue to the federal government for renewable projects and $1.4 billion for traditional projects. The two largest tax expenditures GAO examined—the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and the Production Tax Credit (PTC)—supported renewable projects and accounted for $11.5 billion in forgone revenue. However, the total generating capacity they supported is unknown because the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is not required to collect project-level data from all taxpayers claiming the ITC or report the data it does collect, nor is it required to collect project-level data for the PTC. IRS officials stated that IRS is unlikely to collect additional data on these tax credits unless it is directed to do so. Since 1994, GAO has encouraged greater scrutiny of tax expenditures, including data collection. Without project-level data on the ITC and PTC, Congress cannot evaluate their effectiveness as it considers whether to reauthorize or extend them.
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