The IRS intends to change how it defines vans, sports utility vehicles (SUVs), pickup trucks and “other vehicles” for purposes of the Code Sec. 30D new clean vehicle credit. These changes are reflected in updated IRS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for the new, previously owned and commercial clean vehicle credits.

Clean Vehicle Classification Changes

For a vehicle to qualify for the new clean vehicle credit, its manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) cannot exceed:

  • $80,000 for a van, SUV or pickup truck; or

  • $55,000 for any other vehicle.

In December, the IRS announced that proposed regulations would define these vehicle types by reference to the general definitions provided in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations in 40 CFR 600.002 (Notice 2023-1).

However, the IRS has now determined that these vehicles should be defined by reference to the fuel economy labeling rules in 40 CFR 600.315-08. This change means that some vehicles that were formerly classified as “other vehicles” subject to the $55,000 price cap are now classified as SUVs subject to the $80,000 price cap.

Until the IRS releases proposed regulations for the new clean vehicle credit, taxpayers may rely on the definitions provided in Notice 2023-1, as modified by today’s guidance. These modified definitions are reflected in the Clean Vehicle Qualified Manufacturer Requirements page on the IRS website, which lists makes and models that may be eligible for the clean vehicle credits.

Expected Definitions of Vans, SUVs, Pickup Trucks and Other Vehicles

The EPA fuel economy standards establish a large category of nonpassenger vehicles called “light trucks.” Within this category, vehicles are defined largely by their gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) as follows:

  • Vans, including minivans

  • Pickup trucks, including small pickups with a GVWR below 6,000 pounds, and standard pickups with a GVWR between 6,000 and 8,500 pounds

  • SUVs, including small SUVs with a GVWR below 6.000 pounds, and standard SUVs with a GVWR between 6,000 and 10,000 pounds

  • Other vehicles (passenger automobiles) that, based on seating capacity of interior volume, are classified as two-seaters; mini-compact, subcompact, compact, midsize, or large cars; and small, midsize, or large station wagons.

However, the EPA may determine that a particular vehicle is more appropriately placed in a different category. In particular, the EPA may determine that automobiles with GVWR of up to 8,500 pounds and medium-duty passenger vehicles that possess special features are more appropriately classified as “special purpose vehicles.” These special features may include advanced technologies, such as battery electric vehicles, fuel cell vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and vehicles equipped with hydrogen internal combustion engines.

FAQ Updates

The IRS also updated its frequently asked questions (FAQs) page for the Code Sec. 30D new clean vehicle credit, the Code Sec. 25E previously owned vehicle credit and the Code Sec. 45W qualified commercial clean vehicles credit. In addition to incorporating the new definitions discussed above, these updates:

  • Define “original use” and “MSRP;”

  • Describe the information a seller must provide to the taxpayer and the IRS;

  • Clarify that the MSRP caps apply to a vehicle placed in service (delivered to the taxpayer) in 2023, even if the taxpayer purchased it in 2022; and

  • Explain what constitutes a lease.

Effect on Other Documents

Notice 2023-1 is modified. Taxpayers may rely on the definitions provided in Notice 2023-1, as modified by Notice 2023-16, until the IRS releases proposed regulations for the new clean vehicle credit.