Lower Your Taxes by Thinking Green

Mary Beth Franklin

Outfitting your home with new storm doors and windows or buying a gas-efficient hybrid car can help you score tax credits.

Record-high gasoline prices earlier this year and concerns about heating fuel costs this winter may have you thinking about outfitting your home with new storm doors and windows or buying a gas-efficient hybrid car. If you install qualified home improvements by December 31, you can claim an energy tax credit for 2006 worth 10% of the cost up to $5,000, resulting in a maximum tax credit of $500.

Among the improvements covered are 10% of the cost of installing insulation, energy-efficient windows, doors, skylights and metal roofs coated with heat-reducing pigment. But only $200 of your $500 lifetime maximum credit can be allocated to replacement windows.

The energy credits are more valuable than a deduction because they reduce your tax bill (or boosts your refund) dollar-for-dollar, rather than merely reducing the amount of income that is taxable. And you can claim the credit regardless of your income level.

Also, if you bought a hybrid car or truck this year, you qualify for a tax credit ranging from $250 to $2,600, depending on the make and model. However, the tax credit for some of the most popular fuel-efficient vehicles -- the Toyota Prius, Toyota Highlander Hybrid and the Lexus RX 400h -- has already been cut in half now that the manufacturers have sold their initial 60,000 vehicle allotment. Credits for qualifying Toyota and Lexus hybrids now range from $1,100 to $1,575.

The energy tax credits for cars and home improvements are also available in 2007. Check for details.

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