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Accounting and Tax Planning

Dollars and Sense

By Jim Moran, CPA

 

With 2021 drawing to a close, it is time for business owners to start thinking about year-end tax-planning opportunities to minimize 2021 taxable income and mitigate the impact of taxes prior to the start of the new year.

Planners are once again faced with the fact that tax reform is still unclear. Congress continues to debate President Biden’s Building Back Better legislation, and revenue raisers are still thinking carefully about how to fund this legislation.

This bill contains numerous tax provisions, but with a divided Congress, it is not known which provisions will end up in the final version. A prudent strategy would be to do year-end tax planning based on the status quo but be flexible based on any last-minute year-end legislation.

Jim Moran

Jim Moran

“A prudent strategy would be to do year-end tax planning based on the status quo but be flexible based on any last-minute year-end legislation.”

Here are items to consider as you proceed, taking into consideration current tax law, including provisions of the recent CARES Acts passed as a result of the pandemic:

 

Standard Mileage Rate

The standard mileage rate, for those taxpayers who can use it, is $0.56 for 2021. The IRS mileage rate for 2022 will be released sometime next month.

 

Meals and Entertainment

The CARES Act allows a 100% deduction in 2021 and 2022 for meals purchased from a restaurant. These meals must continue to meet the “ordinary and necessary” business requirements. Entertainment, amusement, and recreation-type events continue to remain 100% non-deductible.

 

Code Section 179 Expensing and Depreciation

The Code Section 179 expense deduction is $1,050,000 for 2021 with a total investment limitation of $2,620,000. Also, 100% bonus depreciation remains in effect in 2021 and 2022. After 2022, the bonus depreciation amount decreases by 20% each year until bonus depreciation is no longer allowed (beginning in 2027).

 

Corporate Limit Increased to 25% of Taxable Income

The COVID relief bills raised the limit to 25% of taxable income through 2021 for cash contributions to eligible charities. The increased deduction does not automatically apply. C-corporations must elect the increased limit on a contribution-by-contribution basis.

 

Increased Limits for Donated Food Inventory

Businesses that contribute food inventory for the care of the “ill, needy, or infants” get an enhanced deduction in 2021. The previous deduction limit was 15% of the taxpayer’s aggregate net income or taxable income. For 2021, business taxpayers may deduct contributions of up to 25% of their aggregate net income or taxable income.

For C-corporations, the 25% limit is based on their taxable income. For other businesses, including sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S-corporations, the limit is based on their aggregate net income for the year from the businesses from which the contributions are made.

 

Paycheck Protection Program

If your business had a PPP loan forgiven during 2021, the amount forgiven should be reported as debt-forgiveness income on your income statement. As a reminder, PPP loan forgiveness income is non-taxable federally.

Principal and interest payments on loan payments made by the SBA established by the CARES Act and revised by the Economic Aid Act are not taxable for federal income-tax purposes. The SBA is authorized to automatically pay up to six months of principal and interest.

 

Net Operating Losses

Generally, net operating losses (NOL) arising in 2021 or later cannot be carried back and must be carried forward indefinitely.

Net operating losses arising in tax years 2018 through 2020 can be caried back five years and then carried forward indefinitely. The NOL carryforwards beginning in 2018 can offset only 80% of taxable income for taxable years beginning in 2021.

NOL carryforwards arising in taxable years prior to 2018 can first offset 100% of 2021 taxable income. If all pre-2018 NOLs are used in 2021 and taxable income remains, any NOL carryovers from 2018-20 can offset only 80% of any remaining taxable income.

 

Bonuses

With the current improvement in the economy, and employees being harder to find and retain, a net-income-reduction measure (in turn tax reduction), businesses should consider bonuses for employees, whether through incentives or through setting work goals. Bonuses should also be contingent on cash flows and the current net income of the company.

For bonuses paid to a controlling shareholder (an individual who owns directly or indirectly greater than 50% of the value of a corporation’s stock), the bonus is considered paid in the year the controlling shareholder reports the income. Thus, in order to deduct the controlling shareholder’s 2021 bonus, it must be paid to the shareholder prior to the end of 2021.

Bonuses subject to a contingency cannot be accrued in 2021 and paid in 2022 even if paid within two and a half months of year-end. Therefore, if employees cannot receive their deferred bonuses for performance in 2021 unless they are still employed in the year 2022 bonus payment date, the company’s liability for the bonus is subject to a contingency and cannot be deducted for tax purposes in 2021, even if paid within two and a half months of year-end.

Similarly, the IRS has held that bonuses are not fixed in the year of service when the amount of individual awards are finalized but revert back to the company if an employee left before receiving the bonus, even though the forfeited amounts could be considered insignificant.

IRS rulings provide that an employer can establish the liability under the first prong of the all-events test for bonuses payable to a group of employees even though the employer does not know the identity of any particular bonus recipient, or the amount payable to that recipient, until after the end of the tax year if the amount of bonuses payable under the program is determinable through a formula that was fixed prior to the end of the year, or through other corporate action that fixed the amount payable to the employees as a group.

Any bonus amount allocable to an employee who was not employed on the date on which bonuses were paid and was reallocated among the other eligible employees and did not revert back to the company is deductible up to the amounts paid within two and a half months of year-end.

 

Bottom Line

Having a well-thought-out tax-planning strategy for year-end is an important part of business decision-making processes. Contact your CPA to help you develop a plan specific to your goals and needs.

 

Jim Moran, CPA is an accountant in the Greenfield office of Melanson; (413) 773-5405.

Home Improvement

Green-building Tax Breaks

By Lisa White, CPA, CJ Aberin, CCSP, and Brandon Val Verde, CEPE

On Dec. 20, 2019, a pair of tax provisions, Sections §45L and §179D, made their way into the government’s year-end spending package. These often-overlooked incentives provide a lucrative tax-saving strategy for the real-estate industry.

Not only were the 45L credit and 179D deduction extended through 2020, but the benefits can also be retroactively claimed if missed on prior tax returns. Real-estate developers, builders, and architects that may be unfamiliar with the provisions should take a closer look to avoid a missed opportunity.

45L: Tax Credit for Residential Real Estate

The 45L credit is a federal incentive worth up to $2,000 per qualified unit and is designed to reward homebuilders and multi-family developers of apartments, condos, or production homes. To qualify, a dwelling unit must provide a level of heating and cooling energy consumption that is 50% less than the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) Standards.

Of this 50% reduction, a minimum of 10% must come from the building envelope. All residential developments and apartment buildings completed within the last four years are worth assessing for potential 45L tax credits. Eligible construction also includes substantial reconstruction and rehabilitation. The credit is available in all 50 states; however, developments must be three stories or less above grade in height.

Here’s an example of now the credit works:

A building owner has an apartment complex consisting of three, two-story buildings, and each building has 20 units. All 60 units meet the qualifications to claim the credit. In year one, 48 of the units go under lease. The credit in year one would be $96,000 ($2,000 x 48). In year two, if the remaining 12 go under lease, a credit of $24,000 can be claimed in that year.

Of course, there are some costs for this benefit. The amount of basis in the building will need to be reduced by the amount of the credit claimed. Since a credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in tax liability, taking a credit over a deduction usually results in a more favorable tax position. There is also the cost for the study and certification, but this expenditure would qualify as a business deduction.

The credit can be claimed in the year the dwelling unit is leased or sold, and there is no limit on the number of qualifying units that can be claimed. The amount of the credit applied is limited to the tax liability (meaning it’s not a refundable credit), and the credit cannot be used to offset AMT. However, any unused credit can be carried back one year or carried forward for 20 years.

The following types of projects should be evaluated, as there are typically benefits available for:

• Affordable housing (LIHTC);

• Apartment buildings;

• Assisted-living facilities;

• Production-home developments;

• Residential condominiums; and

• Student housing.

179D: Tax Deduction for Commercial Real Estate

While 45L typically applies to residential properties, 179D is designed for energy-efficient commercial buildings and offers a tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot for energy-efficient lighting, HVAC systems, and the building envelope.

Unlike most deductions, which are based on the amount spent, this deduction is primarily based on square footage. New construction and a wide range of improvements, from simple lighting retrofits to full-scale construction projects, are eligible for this beneficial tax break.

Improvements are limited to the affected area, and to be eligible, they must reduce energy and power costs by making investments in any of the following categories: a building’s envelope, HVAC and hot water, and/or interior lighting systems.

Beneficiaries of this deduction may include:

• Building owners (commercial or residential);

• Tenants making improvements; and

• Architects and designers of government-owned buildings.

Added Benefits for Architects and Designers of Government Buildings

Architects and designers who implement energy-efficient designs on government buildings are also eligible for the 179D tax deduction if their design meets the criteria. Because government entities cannot use the tax deduction, they can assign the deduction to the designer in the year that the building was placed in service. Since 179D was extended retroactively, architects, engineers, and building contractors should review government projects from prior years to obtain all the deductions for which they are eligible.

Claiming the Benefit

Pursuant to the IRS guidance on claiming these green-building tax breaks, taxpayers are required to certify the tax credit or deduction with a detailed engineering analysis. These supporting studies can be generated by a third-party provider.

While a taxpayer may have missed out on tax credits or deductions when filing original tax returns, the good news is that the tax benefits can be claimed retroactively, dependent on the taxpayer’s situation. A tax preparer can assist in the finer details while working with a qualified professional that has expertise in securing both 45L and 179D tax incentives.

Lisa White, CPA is a tax manager with Holyoke-based public accounting firm Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; [email protected]

CJ Aberin is a principal at KBKG and oversees the Green Building Tax Incentive practice. Over the last several years, he has performed green building tax incentive studies and cost segregation for clients in various industries that range from Fortune 500 companies to individual real estate investors.

Brandon Val Verde is a certified energy plans examiner and senior manager within the Green Building Tax Incentives practice of KBKG. His understanding of various energy standards and codes such as ASHRAE 90.1, IECC, and Title 24 allow him to identify opportunities for Green Building Tax Incentives.

 

 

 

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