Sections Supplements

Proper Incentive

New Law Offers Tax Savings to Real-estate Industry

By JEFFREY CHENEY, CPA/CFE

After several months of negotiations and overhauls within the House and Senate, President Obama recently signed into law the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. This bill contains two key provisions for the real-estate industry: enhanced Section 17 depreciation and the return of ‘bonus’ depreciation.
Both provisions are designed as incentives targeted to small-business owners, but owners of many large businesses will benefit, too.
 
Boost to Section 179 Depreciation
Rather than depreciating business property over several years, Section 179 now allows a taxpayer to expense the entire cost of certain property in the year of purchase. The new law allows a Section 179 deduction for up to $500,000 in 2010 and 2011 for qualified property. If the total purchase of all acquired property exceeds $2 million, there is a dollar-for-dollar decrease in the allowable deduction.
Generally, qualified property includes tangible personal property (such as equipment and furniture) and software that must be used more than 50% in a trade or business. Prior to this new act, real property (buildings and structural components, air and heating units) did not qualify for this special treatment. Now the definition of qualifying property expands to include ‘qualified real property,’ and limits the Section 179 deduction on this type of property to $250,000. Qualified real property includes the following:
• Qualified leasehold improvements. These are improvements to interior parts of non-residential real property placed in service more than three years after the date the building was first placed in service. This does not include improvements to the exterior, elevators or escalators, common areas, or internal structural framework.
• Qualified restaurant property, a building or improvement to a building if more than 50% of the building’s square footage is devoted to preparation of and seating for on-premises consumption of prepared meals.
• Qualified retail improvement property, improvements to non-residential real property if such space is open to the general public and used in the retail business of selling to the general public that meets the other definition of qualified leasehold improvements.
The Section 179 deduction is allowed to the extent of taxable income, with the remainder carried forward to the next year. Be careful, however, because Section 179 carry-forwards on qualified real property are not allowed beyond 2011.

Extension of ‘Bonus’ Depreciation
The bill also extends through 2010 the 50% first-year bonus depreciation that had expired. The allowance is 50% of the depreciable basis of qualified property for assets purchased and placed in service for 2010. To qualify, the property must be a new (not used) asset that has a depreciable tax life of 20 years or less, software, water-utility property, or qualified leasehold-improvement property.
Land improvements also qualify as eligible property and include items such as sidewalks, roads, fences, bridges, and landscaping. There are no purchase or income limitations as described in the Section 179 deduction, and many large businesses can benefit from taking this extended provision to offset taxable income.

New Reporting Requirements
The law provides for $12 billion of tax relief and builds in some revenue raisers to help foot that bill. One revenue booster requires informational reporting (typically 1099-MISC) on rental-property expense payments of $600 or more for individuals who receive rental income. There are exceptions to reporting requirements, such as for individuals who can show that the requirements create a hardship, individuals who receive rental income of a minimal amount, for members of the military who rent their principal residences temporarily. Further guidance on these exceptions should come out by the end of the year.

What This Means for Your Business
For many, 2010 may be a year when cash flow does not match taxable income, and businesses are striving to maintain their capital in the business instead of paying taxes. If qualified-asset purchases are less than $2 million, a Section 179 deduction can be taken to reduce taxable income.
In addition, if there are new land improvements or qualified asset purchases over $2 million, taxable income can be offset by taking the bonus 50% depreciation. Businesses can also elect to exclude real property from qualified Section 179 property if the regular $2 million cap is close to being reached. Whichever method is used, there are several strategies that may be implemented to defer taxation. In deferring taxation, property owners have additional cash available to grow their business.
The act has given plenty to discuss over the coming months. With proper planning and analysis of capital purchases, businesses can achieve favorable tax treatment. Consult your tax professional as to the most effective approach as well as proper qualification and timing of purchases.

Jeffrey Cheney, CPA/CFE, is a manager in the Tax Department at Kostin, Ruffkess & Co., LLC, a certified public-accounting and business-advisory firm with offices in Springfield as well as Farmington and New London, Conn. Beyond traditional accounting, auditing, and tax consulting, the firm also specializes in employee-benefit-plan audits, litigation support, business valuation, succession planning, business consulting, forensic accounting, wealth management, estate planning, fraud prevention, and information-technology assurance; (413) 233-2300; www.kostin.com

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