Author Archives: Carol Coburn

New tax law allows small businesses to expense more, expands bonus depreciation

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded small business taxpayers that changes to the tax law mean they can immediately expense more of the cost of certain business property. Many are now able to write off most depreciable assets in the year they are placed into service.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), passed in December 2017, made tax law changes that will affect virtually every business and individual in 2018 and the years ahead. Among those for business owners are tax rate changes for pass-through entities, changes to the cash accounting method for some, limits on certain deductions and more.

Section 179 expensing changes

A taxpayer may elect to expense all or part of the cost of any Section 179 property and deduct it in the year the property is placed in service. The new law increased the maximum deduction from $500,000 to $1 million. It also increased the phase-out threshold from $2 million to $2.5 million. These changes apply to property placed in service in taxable years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017. For most businesses, this means the 2018 return they file next year.

Section 179 property includes business equipment and machinery, office equipment, livestock and, if elected, qualified real property. The TCJA also modifies the definition of qualified real property to allow the taxpayer to elect to include certain improvements made to nonresidential real property. See New rules and limitations for depreciation and expensing under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for more information.

New 100 percent, first-year ‘bonus’ depreciation

The 100 percent depreciation deduction generally applies to depreciable business assets with a recovery period of 20 years or less and certain other property. Machinery, equipment, computers, appliances and furniture generally qualify. The law also allows expensing for certain film, television, and live theatrical productions, and used qualified property with certain restrictions.

The deduction applies to business property acquired after Sept. 27, 2017, and placed in service after Sept. 27, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2023. In general, the bonus depreciation percentage is reduced for property placed in service after 2022. See the proposed regulations for more details.

Taxpayers may elect out of the additional first-year depreciation for the taxable year the property is placed in service. If the election is made, it applies to all qualified property that is in the same class of property and placed in service by the taxpayer in the same taxable year. The instructions for Form 4562, Depreciation and Amortization, provide details.

Renew expiring ITINs now to file a return next year

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers with expiring Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) to submit their renewal applications as soon as possible. Failing to renew them by the end of this year will cause refund and processing delays in 2019.

This is the second in a series of reminders to help taxpayers get ready for the upcoming tax filing season. Additionally, the IRS has recently updated a special page on its website with steps to take now for the 2019 tax filing season.

The IRS mailed more than 1.3 million letters to taxpayer households that include an ITIN holder with middle digits 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 81 or 82. Affected taxpayers who expect to file a tax return in 2019 should submit a renewal application now.

To help taxpayers, the IRS has prepared a variety of informational materials, including flyers and fact sheets, available in several languages on IRS.gov. In addition to English and Spanish, ITIN materials are available in Chinese, Korean, Haitian Creole, Russian and Vietnamese.

Those who must renew their ITIN can choose to renew their family’s ITINs together, even if family members have an ITIN with middle digits other than 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 81 or 82. Family members include the tax filer, spouse and any dependents claimed on the tax return.

 Who needs an ITIN?

ITINs are used by people who have tax filing requirements under U.S. law but are not eligible for a Social Security number. ITIN holders should visit the ITIN information page on IRS.gov and take a few minutes to read and understand the guidelines. Taxpayers who are eligible for a Social Security number (SSN) should not apply for or renew an ITIN. They should notify IRS of both their SSN and previous ITIN so their accounts can be merged.

Spouses or dependents residing in the United States should renew their ITINs. But those who live elsewhere need not renew them unless they anticipate being claimed for a tax benefit or if they file their own tax return. That’s because the tax reform law suspended the deduction for personal exemptions for tax years 2018 through 2025. Consequently, spouses or dependents outside the United States who would have been claimed for this personal exemption benefit and no other benefit do not need to renew their ITINs this year.

 Who should renew an ITIN?

Taxpayers with ITINs set to expire at the end of the year and who need to file a tax return in 2019 must submit a renewal application. Others do not need to take any action.

  • ITINs with middle digits 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 81 or 82 (for example: 9NN-73-NNNN) need to be renewed if the taxpayer will have a filing requirement in 2019.
  • Taxpayers whose ITINs expired due to lack of use should only renew their ITIN if they will have a filing requirement in 2019.
  • ITINs with expired middle digits 71, 72, 78, 79 and 80 need to be renewed if the taxpayer will have a filing requirement in 2019.

How to renew an ITIN

To renew an ITIN, taxpayers must complete a Form W-7 and submit all required documentation. Although a tax return is normally attached to the Form W-7, a taxpayer is not required to attach a return to ITIN renewal applications. There are three ways to submit the W-7 application package:

  • Mail the Form W-7, along with original identification documents or copies certified by the issuing agency, to the IRS address listed on the Form W-7 instructions. The IRS will review the identification documents and return them within 60 days.
  • Taxpayers have the option to work with Certifying Acceptance Agents (CAAs) authorized by the IRS to help them apply for an ITIN. CAAs can certify all identification documents for primary and secondary taxpayers, can certify that the applicant is not eligible for an SSN and has provided the required documentation to obtain an ITIN. CAAs can also submit the application to the IRS for processing. A CAA can also certify passports and birth certificates for dependents. This saves taxpayers from mailing original documents to the IRS.
  • In advance, taxpayers can call and make an appointment at a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center instead of mailing original identification documents to the IRS. When making an appointment, make sure to let telephone assistors know the visit involves an ITIN renewal application.

Avoid common errors now; prevent delays next year

Several common errors can delay an ITIN renewal application or associated refund. The mistakes generally center on missing information and/or insufficient supporting documentation. Here are a few examples of mistakes taxpayers should avoid:

  • Filing with an expired ITIN. Federal returns that are submitted in 2019 with an expired ITIN will be processed. However, exemptions and/or certain tax credits will be disallowed. Taxpayers will receive a notice in the mail advising them of the change to their tax return and their need to renew their ITIN. Once the ITIN is renewed, any applicable exemptions and credits will be restored, and any refunds will be issued.
  • Failure to indicate reason for applying. A reason for needing the ITIN must be selected on the Form W-7.
  • Missing a complete foreign address. When renewing an ITIN, if Reason B (non-resident alien) is marked, the taxpayer must include a complete foreign address on their Form W-7.
  • Mailing incorrect identification documents. Taxpayers mailing their ITIN renewal applications must include original identification documents or certified copies by the issuing agency and any other required attachments. They must also include the ITIN assigned to them and the name under which it was issued in line 6e-f.

As a reminder, the IRS no longer accepts passports that do not have a date of entry into the U.S. as a stand-alone identification document for dependents from a country other than Canada or Mexico, or dependents of U.S. military personnel overseas. The dependent’s passport must have a date of entry stamp, otherwise the following additional documents to prove U.S. residency are required:

  • U.S. medical records for dependents under age 6,
  • U.S. school records for dependents under age 18, and
  • U.S. school records (if a student), rental statements, bank statements or utility bills listing the applicant’s name and U.S. address if over age 18

The ITIN renewal requirement is part of a series of provisions established by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act enacted by Congress in December 2015. These provisions are outlined in IRS Notice 2016-48.

 

401(k) contribution limit increases to $19,000 for 2019; IRA limit increases to $6,000

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today announced cost of living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for tax year 2019.  The IRS today issued technical guidance detailing these items in Notice 2018-83.

Highlights of Changes for 2019

The contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is increased from $18,500 to $19,000.

The limit on annual contributions to an IRA, which last increased in 2013, is increased from $5,500 to $6,000. The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000.

The income ranges for determining eligibility to make deductible contributions to traditional Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), to contribute to Roth IRAs and to claim the saver’s credit all increased for 2019.

Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions. If during the year either the taxpayer or their spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced, or phased out, until it is eliminated, depending on filing status and income. (If neither the taxpayer nor their spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work, the phase-outs of the deduction do not apply.) Here are the phase-out ranges for 2019:

  • For single taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $64,000 to $74,000, up from $63,000 to $73,000.
  • For married couples filing jointly, where the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $103,000 to $123,000, up from $101,000 to $121,000.
  • For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $193,000 and $203,000, up from $189,000 and $199,000.
  • For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

The income phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $122,000 to $137,000 for singles and heads of household, up from $120,000 to $135,000. For married

couples filing jointly, the income phase-out range is $193,000 to $203,000, up from $189,000 to $199,000. The phase-out range for a married individual filing a separate return who makes contributions to a Roth IRA is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

The income limit for the Saver’s Credit (also known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit) for low- and moderate-income workers is $64,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $63,000; $48,000 for heads of household, up from $47,250; and $32,000 for singles and married individuals filing separately, up from $31,500.

Highlights of Limitations that Remain Unchanged from 2018

The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $6,000.

Detailed Description of Adjusted and Unchanged Limitations

Section 415 of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) provides for dollar limitations on benefits and contributions under qualified retirement plans. Section 415(d) requires that the Secretary of the Treasury annually adjust these limits for cost of living increases. Other limitations applicable to deferred compensation plans are also affected by these adjustments under Section 415. Under Section 415(d), the adjustments are to be made following adjustment procedures similar to those used to adjust benefit amounts under Section 215(i)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act.

Effective Jan. 1, 2019, the limitation on the annual benefit under a defined benefit plan under Section 415(b)(1)(A) is increased from $220,000 to $225,000. For a participant who separated from service before Jan. 1, 2019, the limitation for defined benefit plans under Section 415(b)(1)(B) is computed by multiplying the participant’s compensation limitation, as adjusted through 2018, by 1.0264.

The limitation for defined contribution plans under Section 415(c)(1)(A) is increased in 2019 from $55,000 to $56,000.

The Code provides that various other dollar amounts are to be adjusted at the same time and in the same manner as the dollar limitation of Section 415(b)(1)(A). After taking into account the applicable rounding rules, the amounts for 2019 are as follows:

The limitation under Section 402(g)(1) on the exclusion for elective deferrals described in Section 402(g)(3) is increased from $18,500 to $19,000.

The annual compensation limit under Sections 401(a)(17), 404(l), 408(k)(3)(C), and 408(k)(6)(D)(ii) is increased from $275,000 to $280,000.

The dollar limitation under Section 416(i)(1)(A)(i) concerning the definition of key employee in a top-heavy plan is increased from $175,000 to $180,000.

The dollar amount under Section 409(o)(1)(C)(ii) for determining the maximum account balance in an employee stock ownership plan subject to a five year distribution period is increased from

$1,105,000 to $1,130,000, while the dollar amount used to determine the lengthening of the five year distribution period is increased from $220,000 to $225,000.

The limitation used in the definition of highly compensated employee under Section 414(q)(1)(B) is increased from $120,000 to $125,000.

The dollar limitation under Section 414(v)(2)(B)(i) for catch-up contributions to an applicable employer plan other than a plan described in Section 401(k)(11) or Section 408(p) for individuals aged 50 or over remains unchanged at $6,000. The dollar limitation under Section 414(v)(2)(B)(ii) for catch-up contributions to an applicable employer plan described in Section 401(k)(11) or Section 408(p) for individuals aged 50 or over remains unchanged at $3,000.

The annual compensation limitation under Section 401(a)(17) for eligible participants in certain governmental plans that, under the plan as in effect on July 1, 1993, allowed cost of living adjustments to the compensation limitation under the plan under Section 401(a)(17) to be taken into account, is increased from $405,000 to $415,000.

The compensation amount under Section 408(k)(2)(C) regarding simplified employee pensions (SEPs) remains unchanged at $600.

The limitation under Section 408(p)(2)(E) regarding SIMPLE retirement accounts is increased from $12,500 to $13,000.

The limitation on deferrals under Section 457(e)(15) concerning deferred compensation plans of state and local governments and tax-exempt organizations is increased from $18,500 to $19,000.

The limitation under Section 664(g)(7) concerning the qualified gratuitous transfer of qualified employer securities to an employee stock ownership plan remains unchanged at $50,000.

The compensation amount under Section 1.61 21(f)(5)(i) of the Income Tax Regulations concerning the definition of “control employee” for fringe benefit valuation remains unchanged at $110,000. The compensation amount under Section 1.61 21(f)(5)(iii) is increased from $220,000 to $225,000.

The dollar limitation on premiums paid with respect to a qualifying longevity annuity contract under Section 1.401(a)(9)-6, A-17(b)(2)(i) of the Income Tax Regulations remains unchanged at $130,000.

The Code provides that the $1,000,000,000 threshold used to determine whether a multiemployer plan is a systemically important plan under Section 432(e)(9)(H)(v)(III)(aa) is adjusted using the cost-of-living adjustment provided under Section 432(e)(9)(H)(v)(III)(bb). After taking the applicable rounding rule into account, the threshold used to determine whether a multiemployer plan is a systemically important plan under Section 432(e)(9)(H)(v)(III)(aa) is increased for 2019 from $1,087,000,000 to $1,097,000,000.

The Code also provides that several retirement-related amounts are to be adjusted using the cost-of-living adjustment under Section 1(f)(3). After taking the applicable rounding rules into account, the amounts for 2019 are as follows:

The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(A) for determining the retirement savings contribution credit for married taxpayers filing a joint return is increased from $38,000 to $38,500; the limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(B) is increased from $41,000 to $41,500; and the limitation under Sections 25B(b)(1)(C) and 25B(b)(1)(D) is increased from $63,000 to $64,000.

The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(A) for determining the Retirement Savings Contribution Credit for taxpayers filing as head of household is increased from $28,500 to $28,875; the limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(B) is increased from $30,750 to $31,125; and the limitation under Sections 25B(b)(1)(C) and 25B(b)(1)(D) is increased from $47,250 to $48,000.

The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(A) for determining the Retirement Savings Contribution Credit for all other taxpayers is increased from $19,000 to $19,250; the limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(B) is increased from $20,500 to $20,750; and the limitation under Sections 25B(b)(1)(C) and 25B(b)(1)(D) is increased from $31,500 to $32,000.

The deductible amount under Section 219(b)(5)(A) for an individual making qualified retirement contributions is increased from $5,500 to $6,000.

The applicable dollar amount under Section 219(g)(3)(B)(i) for determining the deductible amount of an IRA contribution for taxpayers who are active participants filing a joint return or as a qualifying widow(er) increased from $101,000 to $103,000. The applicable dollar amount under Section 219(g)(3)(B)(ii) for all other taxpayers who are active participants (other than married taxpayers filing separate returns) increased from $63,000 to $64,000. If an individual or the individual’s spouse is an active participant, the applicable dollar amount under Section 219(g)(3)(B)(iii) for a married individual filing a separate return is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0. The applicable dollar amount under Section 219(g)(7)(A) for a taxpayer who is not an active participant but whose spouse is an active participant is increased from $189,000 to $193,000.

The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 408A(c)(3)(B)(ii)(I) for determining the maximum Roth IRA contribution for married taxpayers filing a joint return or for taxpayers filing as a qualifying widow(er) is increased from $189,000 to $193,000. The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 408A(c)(3)(B)(ii)(II) for all other taxpayers (other than married taxpayers filing separate returns) is increased from $120,000 to $122,000. The applicable dollar amount under Section 408A(c)(3)(B)(ii)(III) for a married individual filing a separate return is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0.

 

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”)

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) changed deductions, depreciation, expensing, tax credits and other tax items that affect businesses. This side-by-side comparison can help businesses understand the changes and plan accordingly.

Some provisions of the TCJA that affect individual taxpayers can also affect business taxes. Businesses and self-employed individuals should review tax reform changes for individuals and determine how these provisions work with their business situation.

Visit IRS.gov/taxreform regularly for tax reform updates. Businesses can find details and the latest resources on the provisions below at Tax Reform Provisions that Affect Businesses.

Deductions, depreciation and expensing

Changes to deductions, depreciation and expensing may affect a taxpayer’s business taxes. Publication 535, Business Expenses, and Publication 946, How to Depreciate Property, explain many of these topics in detail.

Deductions

Deductions 2017 Law What changed under TCJA
New deduction for qualified business income of pass-through entities No previous law for comparison. This is a new provision. This new provision, also known as Section 199A, allows a deduction of up to 20% of qualified business income for owners of some businesses. Limits apply based on income and type of business.
Limits on deduction for meals and entertainment expenses A business can deduct up to 50% of entertainment expenses directly related to the active conduct of a trade or business or incurred immediately before or after a substantial and bona fide business discussion. The TCJA generally eliminated the deduction for any expenses related to activities considered entertainment, amusement or recreation. However, under the new law, taxpayers can continue to deduct 50% of the cost of business meals if the taxpayer (or an employee of the taxpayer) is present and the food or beverages are not considered lavish or extravagant. The meals may be provided to a current or potential business customer, client, consultant or similar business contact.  If provided during or at an entertainment activity, the food and beverages must be purchased separately from the entertainment, or the cost of the food or beverages must be stated separately from the cost of the entertainment on one or more bills, invoices, or receipts.

Notice 2018-76 provides additional information on these changes.

New limits on deduction for business interest expenses The deduction for net interest is limited to 50% of adjusted taxable income for firms with a debt-equity ratio above 1.5. Interest above the limit can be carried forward indefinitely. The change limits deductions for business interest incurred by certain businesses. Generally, for businesses with 25 million or less in average annual gross receipts, business interest expense is limited to business interest income plus 30% of the business’s adjusted taxable income and floor-plan financing interest

There are some exceptions to the limit, and some businesses can elect out of this limit. Disallowed interest above the limit may be carried forward indefinitely, with special rules for partnerships.

Changes to rules for like-kind exchanges Like-kind exchange treatment applies to certain exchanges of real, personal or intangible property. Like-kind exchange treatment now applies only to certain exchanges of real property.

For more information, see Form 8824, Like-Kind Exchanges, and its instructions, as well as Publication 544, Sales and Other Disposition of Assets.

Payments made in sexual harassment or sexual abuse cases No previous law for comparison. This is a new provision. No deduction is allowed for certain payments made in sexual harassment or sexual abuse cases.
Changes to deductions for local lobbying expenses Although lobbying and political expenditures are generally not deductible, a taxpayer can deduct payments related to lobbying local councils or similar governing bodies. TCJA repealed the exception for local lobbying expenses. The general disallowance rules for lobbying and political expenses now apply to payments related to local legislation as well.

Depreciation

Depreciation 2017 Law What changed under TCJA
Temporary 100 percent expensing for certain business assets Certain business assets, such as equipment and buildings, are depreciated over time.

Bonus depreciation for equipment, computer software, and certain improvements to nonresidential real property allows an immediate deduction of 50% for equipment placed in service in 2017, 40% in 2018, and 30% in 2019.

Long-lived property generally is not eligible. The phase down is delayed for certain property, including property with a long production period.

TCJA temporarily allows 100% expensing for business property acquired and placed in service after Sept. 27, 2017 and before Jan. 1, 2023.

The 100% allowance generally decreases by 20% per year in taxable years beginning after 2022 and expires Jan. 1, 2027.

The law now allows expensing for certain film, television, and live theatrical productions, and used qualified property with certain restrictions.

For more information, see Tax Reform: Changes to Depreciation Affect Businesses Now and New 100-percent depreciation deduction for businesses.

Changes to rules for expensing depreciable business assets (section 179 property) A taxpayer can expense the cost of qualified assets and deduct a maximum of $500,000, with a phaseout threshold of $2 million.

Generally, qualified assets consist of machinery, equipment, off-the-shelf computer software and certain improvements to nonresidential real property.

TCJA increased the maximum deduction to $1 million and increased the phase-out threshold to $2.5 million.

It also modifies the definition of section 179 property to allow the taxpayer to elect to include certain improvements made to nonresidential real property.

Publication 946, How to Depreciate Property, and the Additional First Year Depreciation Deduction (Bonus) FAQs provide additional resources on this topic.

Changes to depreciation of luxury automobiles There are limits on depreciation deductions for owners of cars, trucks and vans. TCJA increased depreciation limits for passenger vehicles. If the taxpayer doesn’t claim bonus depreciation, the greatest allowable depreciation deduction is:

  • $10,000 for the first year,
  • $16,000 for the second year,
  • $9,600 for the third year, and
  • $5,760 for each later taxable year in the recovery period.

If a taxpayer claims 100% bonus depreciation, the greatest allowable depreciation deduction is $18,000 for the first year, and the same as above for later years.

Changes to listed property Computers and peripheral equipment are categorized as listed property. Their deduction and depreciation is subject to strict substantiation requirements. TCJA removes computer or peripheral equipment from the definition of listed property.
Changes to the applicable recovery period for real property The General Depreciation System (GDS) and the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS) of the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) provide that the capitalized cost of tangible property is recovered over a specified life by annual deductions for depreciation. The general depreciation system recovery periods are still 39 years for nonresidential real property and 27.5 years for residential rental property. The alternative depreciation system recovery period for nonresidential real property is still 40 years. However, TCJA changes the alternative depreciation system recovery period for residential rental property from 40 years to 30 years. Qualified leasehold improvement property, qualified restaurant property and qualified retail improvement property are no longer separately defined and given a special 15-year recovery period under the new law.

Businesses with employees: Changes to fringe benefits and new credit

For businesses that have employees, there are changes to fringe benefits and a new tax credit that can affect a business’s bottom line.

Fringe benefit 2017 law What changed under TCJA 
Suspension of the exclusion for qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements Up to $20 per month in employer reimbursement for bicycle commuting expense is not subject to income and employment taxes of the employee. Under TCJA, employers can deduct qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements as a business expense.

Employers must now include 100% of these reimbursements in the employee’s wages, subject to income and employment taxes.

Suspension of exclusion for qualified moving expense reimbursements An employee’s moving expense reimbursements are not subject to income or employment taxes. Under TCJA, employers must include moving expense reimbursements in employees’ wages, subject to income and employment taxes. Generally, members of the U.S. Armed Forces can still exclude qualified moving expense reimbursements from their income.
Prohibition on cash, gift cards and other non-tangible personal property as employee achievement award Employers can deduct the cost of certain employee achievement awards. Deductible awards are excludible from employee income. Special rules allow an employee to exclude certain achievement awards from their wages if the awards are tangible personal property. An employer also may deduct awards that are tangible personal property, subject to certain deduction limits. TCJA clarifies that tangible personal property doesn’t include cash, cash equivalents, gift cards, gift coupons, certain gift certificates, tickets to theater or sporting events, vacations, meals, lodging, stocks, bonds, securities, and other similar items.

 

Tax Credit 2017 law What changed under TCJA 
New employer credit for paid family and medical leave No previous law for comparison. This is a new provision. The TCJA added a new tax credit for employers that offer paid family and medical leave to their employees.

The credit applies to wages paid in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2020.

The credit is a percentage of wages (as determined for Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) purposes and without regard to the $7,000 FUTA wage limitation) paid to a qualifying employee while on family and medical leave for up to 12 weeks per taxable year. The percentage can range from 12.5% to 25%, depending on the percentage of wages paid during the leave.

For more information on the new credit, see Notice 2018-71 and New credit benefits employers who provide paid family and medical leave.

Business structure and accounting methods

An organization’s business structure is an important consideration when applying tax reform changes. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changed some things related to these topics.

Business structure topic 2017 law What changed under TCJA 
Changes to cash method of accounting for some businesses Small business taxpayers with average annual gross receipts of $5 million or less in the prior three-year period may use the cash method of accounting. The TCJA allows small business taxpayers with average annual gross receipts of $25 million or less in the prior three-year period to use the cash method of accounting. The law expands the number of small business taxpayers eligible to use the cash method of accounting and exempts these small businesses from certain accounting rules for inventories, cost capitalization and long-term contracts. As a result, more small business taxpayers can change to cash method accounting starting after Dec. 31, 2017.

Revenue Procedure 2018-40 provides further details on these changes.

Changes regarding conversions from an S corporation to a C corporation In the case of an S corporation that converts to a C corporation:

  • Net adjustments that are needed to prevent amounts from being duplicated or omitted as a result of an accounting method change and attributable to the revocation of the S corporation election (e.g. adjustments required because of a required change from the cash method to an accrual method): net adjustments that decrease taxable income generally were taken into account entirely in the year of change, and net adjustments that increase taxable income generally were taken into account ratably during the four-taxable-year period beginning with the year of change.
  • Distributions of cash by the C corporation to its shareholders during a post-termination transition period (generally one year after the conversion) are, to the extent of stock basis tax-free, then capital gain to the extent of remaining accumulated adjustments account (AAA). Distributions more than AAA are treated as dividends coming from accumulated Earnings and Profits (E&P).  Distributions after that period are dividends to the extent of E&P and taxed as dividends.
The TCJA makes two modifications to existing law for a C corporation that (1) was an S corporation on Dec. 21, 2017 and revokes its S corporation election after Dec. 21, 2017, but before Dec. 22, 2019, and (2) has the same owners of stock in identical proportions on the date of revocation and on Dec. 22, 2017.

The following modifications apply to these entities:

  • The period for including net adjustments that are needed to prevent amounts from being duplicated or omitted as a result of an accounting method change and attributable to the revocation of the S corporation election is changed to six years. This six-year period applies to net adjustments that decrease taxable income as well as net adjustments that increase taxable income.
  • Distributions of cash following the post-termination transition period are treated as coming out of the corporation’s AAA and E&P proportionally.

See Revenue Procedure 2018-44 for more detailed information.

Businesses or individuals that rehabilitate historical buildings

Topic 2017 law What changed under TCJA 
Changes to the rehabilitation tax credit Owners of certified historic structures were eligible for a tax credit of 20% of qualified rehabilitation expenditures.

Owners of pre-1936 buildings were eligible for a tax credit of 10% of qualified rehabilitation expenditures.

TCJA keeps the 20% credit for qualified rehabilitation expenditures for certified historic structures but requires that taxpayers take the 20% credit over five years instead of in the year they placed the building into service.

The 10% credit for pre-1936 buildings is repealed under TCJA.

Opportunity for tax-favored investments

Opportunity Zones are a tool designed to spur economic development and job creation in distressed communities. Businesses or individuals can participate.

Topic 2017 law What changed under TCJA 
Opportunity Zones No previous law for comparison. This is a new provision. Investments in Opportunity Zones provide tax benefits to investors. Investors can elect to temporarily defer tax on capital gains that are reinvested in a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF). The tax on the gain can be deferred until the earlier of the date on which the QOF investment is sold or exchanged, or Dec. 31, 2026. If the investor holds the investment in the QOF for at least ten years, the investor  may be eligible for a permanent exclusion of any capital gain realized by the sale or exchange of the QOF investment.

 

Tax reform brings changes to fringe benefits that can affect an employer’s bottom line


The IRS reminds employers that several programs have been affected as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed last year. This includes changes to fringe benefits, which can affect an employer’s bottom line and its employees’ deductions.

Here’s information about some of these changes that will affect employers:

Entertainment Expenses & Deduction for Meals
The new law generally eliminated the deduction for any expenses related to activities generally considered entertainment, amusement or recreation.
 
However, under the new law, taxpayers can continue to deduct 50 percent of the cost of business meals if the taxpayer or an employee of the taxpayer is present, and the food or beverages are not considered lavish or extravagant. The meals may be provided to a current or potential business customer, client, consultant or similar business contact. Food and beverages that are purchased or consumed during entertainment events will not be considered entertainment if either of these apply:

  • they are purchased separately from the entertainment
  • the cost is stated separately from the entertainment on one or more bills, invoices or receipts

Qualified Transportation 
The new law also disallows deductions for expenses associated with qualified transportation fringe benefits or expenses incurred providing transportation for commuting. There is an exception when the transportation expenses are necessary for employee safety.

Bicycle Commuting Reimbursements 
Under the new law, employers can deduct qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements as a business expense. The new tax law suspends the exclusion of qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements from an employee’s income. This means that employers must now include these reimbursements in the employee’s wages.
  
Qualified Moving Expenses Reimbursements 
Employers must now include moving expense reimbursements in employees’ wages. The new tax law suspends the exclusion for qualified moving expense reimbursements.

There is one exception as members of the U.S. Armed Forces can still exclude qualified moving expense reimbursements from their income if they meet certain requirements.

Employee Achievement Award 
Special rules allow an employee to exclude achievement awards from their wages if the awards are tangible personal property. An employer also may deduct awards that are tangible personal property, subject to certain deduction limits. The new law clarifies the definition of tangible personal property.

New 100-percent depreciation deduction benefits business taxpayers

Tax reform legislation passed in December 2017 includes changes that affect businesses. One of these changes allows businesses to write off most depreciable business assets in the year they place them in service.

Here are some facts about this deduction to help businesses better understand how to claim it:

  • The 100-percent depreciation deduction generally applies to depreciable business assets with a recovery period of 20 years or less and certain other property.

  • Machinery, equipment, computers, appliances and furniture generally qualify.

  • The 100-percent depreciation deduction applies to qualifying property acquired and placed in service after Sept. 27, 2017.

  • Taxpayers who elect out of the 100-percent depreciation deduction for a class of property must do so on a timely filed return. Those who have already timely filed their 2017 return and did not elect out can still do so. These taxpayers have six months from the original filing deadline, to file an amended return. For calendar-year corporations, this means Oct. 15, 2018.

  • The IRS issued proposed regulations with guidance on what property qualifies and rules for qualified film, television and live theatrical productions, and certain plants.

  • For details on claiming the 100-percent depreciation deduction or electing out of claiming it, taxpayers should refer to the proposed regulations or the instructions toForm 4562, Depreciation and Amortization.

Drought-stricken farmers and ranchers have more time to replace livestock

Farmers and ranchers who were forced to sell livestock due to drought may get extra time to replace the livestock and defer tax on any gains from the forced sales. Here are some facts about this to help farmers understand how the deferral works and if they are eligible.

  • The one-year extension gives eligible farmers and ranchers until the end of the tax year after the first drought-free year to replace the sold livestock.

  • The farmer or rancher must be in an applicable region. An applicable region is a county designated as eligible for federal assistance, as well as counties contiguous to that county.

  • The farmer’s county, parish, city or district included in the applicable region must be listed as suffering exceptional, extreme or severe drought conditions by the National Drought Mitigation Center. All or part of 41 states, plus the District of Columbia, are listed. The list of applicable regions is in Notice 2018-79 on IRS.gov.

  • The relief applies to farmers who were affected by drought that happened between Sept. 1, 2017, and Aug. 31, 2018.

  • This relief generally applies to capital gains realized by eligible farmers and ranchers on sales of livestock held for draft, dairy or breeding purposes. Sales of other livestock, such as those raised for slaughter or held for sporting purposes, or poultry are not eligible.

  • To qualify, the sales must be solely due to drought, flooding or other severe weather causing the region to be designated as eligible for federal assistance.

  • The farmers generally must replace the livestock within a four-year period, instead of the usual two-year period.

  • Because the normal drought sale replacement period is four years, this extension immediately impacts drought sales that occurred during 2014. But because of previous drought-related extensions affecting some of these areas, the replacement periods for some drought sales before 2014 are also affected.

New credit benefits employers who provide paid family and medical leave

New credit benefits employers who provide paid family and medical leave


Eligible employers who provide paid family and medical leave to their employees during tax years 2018 and 2019 might qualify for a new business tax credit. This new employer credit for family and medical leave is part of tax reform legislation passed in December 2017. To be eligible, an employer must:

  • Have a written policy that meets several requirements, as detailed in Notice 2018-71.
  • Provide:
    • At least two weeks of paid family and medical leave to full-time employees.
    • A prorated amount of paid leave for part-time employees.
    • Pay for leave that is at least 50 percent of the wages normally paid to that employee.