What a shame! At one time it looked like the manufacture of solar panels would be an arena in which the U.S. could work towards energy independence, grow manufacturing jobs and compete successfully. However, China, following a trade model of government subsidies and dumping has managed to put most American solar panel manufacturers out of business. Those manufacturers that remain in the U.S for the most part import Chinese solar modules and only assemble the finished panels here. One of the holdouts, SolarWorld Industries America, the German subsidiary, has petitioned the Commerce Department to impose new duties on solar modules that with loopholes currently escape duties. (See NYTimes, 01/01/2014.)
Think about this: China imposes a 17% VAT on imports, and, by virtue of the Value Added Tax mechanism, also subtracts the 17% tax burden from exports. This creates a very large price wedge in itself against solar panels manufactured in the U.S. for domestic consumption. Were the U.S. to similarly employ a VAT (in sweeping tax reform as a revenue-neutral replacement for the Corporate Income Tax and other taxes), domestic manufacturers like SolarWorld would be far less disadvantaged vs. Chinese and other foreign imports. SolarWorld’s need for duties might even be entirely mitigated.