ESG Investing & Taxes

8 minute read

What is ESG?

ESG, which stands for environmental, social, and governance, is a set of criteria that businesses and investors use to evaluate a company's ethical and sustainable practices. Companies that prioritize ESG considerations tend to have better long-term performance and are more attractive to socially responsible investors. One way that governments incentivize ESG practices is through tax credits and other tax incentives.

In this article, we will explore what ESG means for tax, as well as the ESG tax services around the tax policy area, including the use of tax credits, incentives, and strategies. 

ESG & Tax

ESG factors can have a significant impact on a company's tax liabilities. Companies that engage in environmentally sustainable practices, such as reducing their carbon footprint or investing in renewable energy, may be eligible for tax credits and deductions. Similarly, companies that prioritize social impact, such as providing fair labor practices and ensuring employee diversity, may also be eligible for tax credits.

ESG tax strategies can help companies to reduce their tax liabilities while also aligning with their ethical and sustainable practices. For example, a company that invests in energy-efficient equipment can receive tax incentives and reduce their energy costs. This strategy not only helps the company's bottom line but also reduces their carbon footprint, making it a win-win situation.

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ESG Tax Services

There are a variety of ESG tax services available to help businesses integrate ESG practices into their tax planning. These services provide guidance on ESG tax credits and incentives, as well as help companies to develop and implement ESG strategies. Some of the most common ESG tax services include:

Climate change and energy efficiency: These services provide guidance on tax credits and incentives for companies that invest in renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies.

Social impact investing: These services focus on helping companies that prioritize social impact, such as fair labor practices and community engagement, to take advantage of tax credits and incentives.

Corporate governance and board diversity: These services provide guidance on tax credits and incentives for companies that prioritize good corporate governance and board diversity.

Human rights and labor standards: These services focus on helping companies that prioritize human rights and labor standards to take advantage of tax credits and incentives.

Link between ESG and tax planning

The connection between ESG and tax planning lies in the fact that companies that prioritize ESG considerations are often eligible for tax credits and other incentives. ESG criteria such as environmental sustainability, social impact, and good governance can all have an impact on a company's tax liabilities. By integrating ESG considerations into their tax planning, companies can reduce their tax liabilities while also aligning with their ethical and sustainable practices.

Environmental sustainability is one of the most common ESG criteria that can impact tax planning. For example, companies that invest in renewable energy or reduce their carbon footprint may be eligible for tax credits and deductions. These incentives not only help to reduce a company's tax liabilities but also encourage them to adopt more environmentally sustainable practices.

Social impact is another key ESG criteria that can impact tax planning. Companies that prioritize fair labor practices, diversity, and community engagement may be eligible for tax credits and incentives. These incentives can help to reduce a company's tax liabilities while also encouraging them to align with their values and make a positive social impact.

Good corporate governance and board diversity are also key ESG criteria that can impact tax planning. Companies that prioritize good governance, including board diversity, may be eligible for tax credits and incentives. These incentives can help to reduce a company's tax liabilities while also promoting good governance practices and board diversity.

ESG Tax Strategies

ESG tax strategies refer to the methods that companies can use to integrate ESG considerations into their tax planning. These strategies not only help to reduce a company's tax liabilities but also encourage them to align with their values and make a positive impact on the environment, society, and governance. Two common ESG tax strategies are historic rehabilitation and affordable housing.

Solar Energy Tax Credits

Renewable energy investment is another ESG tax strategy that companies can use to integrate ESG considerations into their tax planning. This strategy promotes environmental sustainability and helps to reduce a company's tax liabilities. By investing in renewable energy projects, companies can not only reduce their carbon footprint but also take advantage of tax credits and other incentives.

One of the most popular renewable energy investments is solar energy. The federal government offers a solar investment tax credit (ITC) that provides a 30% tax credit for companies that invest in solar energy systems. The credit applies to both residential and commercial properties, and there is no cap on the amount of the credit.

The solar investment tax credit has been extended through 2032, but it will begin to phase out after that year. Companies that invest in solar energy before 2032 can take advantage of the full 30% tax credit, while those who invest after 2033 will receive a reduced credit.

In addition to the federal solar investment tax credit, many states offer their own solar tax credits and other incentives. These credits can vary from state to state, but they generally provide an additional incentive for companies to invest in solar energy systems.

Historic Rehabilitation

Historic rehabilitation is an ESG tax strategy that encourages companies to invest in the preservation and rehabilitation of historic buildings. This strategy not only promotes good governance practices but also helps to reduce a company's tax liabilities. Companies that invest in the rehabilitation of historic buildings may be eligible for federal and state tax credits, which can help to offset the costs of the project.

The historic rehabilitation tax credit is a federal tax credit that can be used to offset the costs of rehabilitating certified historic structures. This credit is equal to 20% of the qualified rehabilitation expenses for income-producing properties 

In addition to the federal tax credit, many states offer their own historic rehabilitation tax credits. These credits can vary from state to state, but they generally provide an additional incentive for companies to invest in historic preservation and rehabilitation.

Charitable Contributions

Donating to charities is an ESG tax strategy that can help companies to align with their values and also reduce their tax liabilities. By making charitable contributions, companies can support causes that are important to them while also taking advantage of tax deductions.

The federal government allows companies to deduct charitable contributions from their taxable income, up to certain limits. The limits depend on the type of charity and the type of donation, but in general, companies can deduct up to 10% of their taxable income for charitable contributions.

In addition to the federal deduction, many states offer their own tax incentives for charitable contributions. These incentives can include tax credits or additional deductions, depending on the state.

Charitable contributions can also help companies to build goodwill with their customers and communities. By supporting causes that are important to their stakeholders, companies can strengthen their relationships and improve their reputation.

Green Bonds

Green bonds are a type of bond that is used to finance environmentally sustainable projects. By investing in green bonds, companies can support environmentally sustainable projects while also taking advantage of tax benefits.

The federal government offers tax incentives for companies that invest in green bonds. Companies can receive tax credits and other incentives for investing in green bonds that finance renewable energy, energy efficiency, or other environmentally sustainable projects.

In addition to the federal tax incentives, many states offer their own incentives for green bond investments. These incentives can include tax credits or other benefits, depending on the state.

Green bonds not only provide tax benefits, but they also support environmentally sustainable projects that can have a positive impact on the environment and society. By investing in green bonds, companies can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and make a positive impact on the world.

Affordable Housing

Affordable housing is another ESG tax strategy that encourages companies to invest in affordable housing projects. This strategy not only promotes social impact but also helps to reduce a company's tax liabilities. Companies that invest in affordable housing projects may be eligible for federal and state tax credits, which can help to offset the costs of the project.

The low-income housing tax credit is a federal tax credit that can be used to offset the costs of developing affordable housing. This credit is equal to 9% of the eligible basis of the project for the first 10 years of the project's life.

In addition to the federal tax credit, many states offer their own affordable housing tax credits. These credits can vary from state to state, but they generally provide an additional incentive for companies to invest in affordable housing projects.

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