Man says IRS penalizing him over solar panels

Posted at 6:33 PM, Jan 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-06 21:33:18-05

A San Diego man says he’s now paying the IRS thousands of dollars in back taxes and penalties. And it was a money saving move Austin Swint thought he was making - that cost him big time.

Swint earns his paycheck managing a restaurant steps from the ocean.

But these days, his finances are anything but a walk on the beach.

“Oh man, we canceled a couple years worth of vacations,” Swint said.

All because of something he did to try to save money - put solar panels on his house.

He got the solar panels installed on his roof, claimed the rebate, and then the IRS said it wanted all that cash back, plus penalties."

“Nobody should have to go through what I'm going through,” Swint said.

Swint said he paid $25,000 for the panels in 2012 by getting a loan.

Then, he says he took a rebate of about 5 thousand dollars on his taxes.

“And then the next thing you know, about a year and a half later, we get audited by the IRS,” Swint said.

Now, he says he's paying back about $8,000 dollars, included interest and penalties, to the IRS and the state.

People who buy solar panels qualify for tax breaks. Those who lease do not, so it's unclear why Swint couldn't take the credit, since he says he bought the panels.

The state rebates have now expired, but federal tax credits are available to those who buy systems.

Nobody picked up the phone at the company that Swint says sold him the panels.

The IRS said it couldn't comment.

The California Public Utilities Commission is warning consumers about high pressure, misleading solar sales people, making false promises of tax breaks.

They used that tax rebate as a tool to help sell them

Swint got that phone call in 2012.

He says he's still getting them - which is why he's speaking out now.

“Make sure you read the fine lines, and make sure you know what you're getting into,” he said.

So that no more vacations have to be canceled.