Q: I was planning to get storm windows this fall to make my house more energy-efficient, but then I heard that there's a tax credit you can get, but only if you wait until 2009 to install them. What's up with that? Why would IRS want me to wait until the middle of winter to winterize? 

- Jason, New Jersey 

A: It's not so much that the IRS wants you to wait, it's just that Congress let its home energy efficiency tax credits expire at the end of 2007, and only just now got around to extending them — by tacking legislation onto the bailout package earlier this month. And when they did that, they made January 1, 2009 the effective date, leaving all of 2008 a no-man's land. As Howard Samuels, a CPA in New York, N.Y., explains, “Welcome to our government.”

So if you want that tax credit for your storm window — which amounts to 10 percent of the cost, or up to $200 — you’ll have to wait until the extension kicks in on January 1 (same deal for a whole raft of eligible home improvements, by the way). At that point, you may pass Go, and either install them yourself, or have a pro do it. Of course no one's stopping you from purchasing your storm windows today, and just leaving them in your garage until New Year's Day, but we can think of better ways to spend the morning after a champagne-soaked fete than carefully drilling holes into your window frames. And if the IRS did start sniffing around your tax return, and did take a gander at the date on your receipt, it might be hard to prove that you waited to put them up. Probably better just to wait until January to purchase your storm windows, or have them professionally installed (in which case, get a receipt).  

Is it worth it to wait? "For some people, yeah, two hundred bucks is a lot of money. Others may just say, forget it, it's cold, I'm just going to install my freaking windows now," Samuels admits. If you're in the former camp, Samuels says, be sure you hang onto the manufacturer's certification statement, as proof that your windows are eligible, in case you ever get audited. Most of the time, your certification will come in the box, but if it doesn't, just ask for one.

Story by Sarah Schmidt. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2008. The story was added to MNN.com in November 2009.

Copyright Environ Press 2008