Site Menu

Cash for Clunkers - Car Tax Credit 

NOTE: The 2009 Cash for Clunkers program has ended, but we will maintain this page for those who need to file a tax amendment for Tax Year 2009.

Cash for Clunkers

Basic Cash for Clunkers Qualification Requirements:

Step 1:

Find out what the miles per gallon(MPG) is of the car you are planning on trading in.

Step 2:

Once you know the MPG of your trade in car, you need to decide what type of car you want to purchase. Here are basic guidelines:

  1. In order to qualify for the $3,500 rebate, a new passenger car must get at least 22 MPG.
  2. The new vehicle's MPG rate has to be at least 4 miles more per gallon than the trade in car's MPG. For example if you are trading in a 1994 Ford Explorer that gets 20 MPG your new car must have at least 24 MPG.
  3. You will qualify for the maximum Cash for Clunker rebate of $4,500 if you improve your MPG by at least 10 MPG points. Generally there are different requirements for each vehicle type e.g. Light-Duty, Large Light-Duty, or Commercial Truck etc.

The CAR ALLOWANCE REBATE SYSTEM (CARS) is handled by the National Highway Safety Administration.


Car Sales and Excise Tax Deduction

Q. What is this new car sales tax deduction?
A. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides a deduction for state and local sales and excise taxes paid on the purchase of qualified new vehicles through 2009.

Q. What are considered to be “qualified motor vehicles” for the purpose of this deduction?
A. A qualified motor vehicle is a passenger automobile, light truck or motorcycle which has a gross vehicle weight rating of 8,500 pounds or less. A motor home is also considered a qualified motor vehicle.

Q. If I purchase a really expensive car, can I deduct the entire amount of state and local sales taxes paid on the vehicle?
A. No, only state and local sales taxes paid on up to $49,500 of the purchase price of a qualifying vehicle are deductible.

Q. Does the purchase of a used car qualify for this deduction?
A. No. In order to take the deduction, you must be the first owner of the vehicle.

Q. When can the vehicle be purchased to qualify for this deduction?
A. This deduction applies to vehicles purchased after Feb. 16, 2009 and before Jan. 1, 2010.

Q. Do I have to itemize in order to take this deduction?
A. No. Anyone who qualifies can take this deduction. You will claim this deduction when filing your 2009 Federal Income Tax Return.

Q. What about those 2008 models still sitting on the lot — can I claim the deduction if I purchase one of last year’s models?
A. Yes, you can take the deduction as long as you are the vehicle’s first owner.

Q. Are there any restrictions on who can take the deduction?
A. Yes. This deduction is phased out for higher income taxpayers. Single taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is less than $125,000 and married taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is less than $250,000 will receive the full deduction.

Q. At what income does the deduction fully phase out?
A. The amount of the deduction is phased out for taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is between $125,000 and $135,000 for individual filers and between $250,000 and $260,000 for joint filers.

Q. If I purchased a qualified vehicle, may I amend my 2008 tax return to claim the deduction now?
A. No. You can only claim this deduction on your 2009 tax return.

Q. What if my state doesn’t have a sales tax?
A. Purchases made in states without a sales tax — such as Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon — can also qualify for the deduction. Taxpayers in states without a sales tax are entitled to deduct other qualifying fees or taxes imposed by the state or local government. The fees or taxes that qualify must be assessed on the purchase of the vehicle and must be based on the vehicle’s sales price or as a per unit fee.

Q. Can I take the deduction for a second or third vehicle I purchase?
A. Yes. There is no limit on the number of cars for which you can claim the deduction, provided each car is a qualified vehicle under the law.

Q. Can I take this deduction for any qualified vehicle — even those made by foreign car companies?
A. Yes. As long as it is a new car and otherwise qualifies, you may take the deduction.


See what other tax credits and tax deductions you may qualify for.