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Strategic Tax Planning Tips to Lower Business Tax Liability

Posted by Concannon Miller on Thu, Feb 21, 2019

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hand drawing creative business strategy with light bulb as conceptMore than a year after sweeping federal and state tax reform were enacted, businesses of all sizes are still wrapping their arms around the changes.

Additional guidance and regulations have been issued nearly every month — indeed, change is the new normal. Strategic tax planning now is key to lowering businesses’ total tax liability.

Read on for eight top planning opportunities and considerations businesses should review as part of their 2019 strategy.

Qualified Business Income Deduction: The new Qualified Business Income (or Section 199A) Deduction may reduce a pass-through owner’s maximum individual effective tax rate from 37 percent to 29.6 percent. Taxpayers should determine whether they qualify for the deduction when estimating their future taxable income and while evaluating choice of entity considerations post-tax reform.

With proper tax planning under the recently-issued final regulations, a number of opportunities exist to possibly separate non-qualifying Specified Service Trade or Businesses from qualifying trades or businesses in order to take advantage of the reduced rate of tax on eligible activities that would otherwise have been recast as a SSTB given the relationship to the underlying activity.

READ MORE: IRS: Rental Real Estate Owners Qualify for QBI; Other New Rules

New call-to-actionInterest Deduction Limitation: Taxpayers now face significant new limitations on their ability to deduct business interest paid or accrued on debt allocable to a trade or business. The new rule may limit the deductibility of business interest expense to the sum of:

  • Business interest income
  • 30 percent of the adjusted taxable income of the taxpayer; and
  • The floor plan financing interest of the taxpayer for the taxable year (applicable to dealers of vehicles, boats, farm machinery or construction machinery).

ATI is defined as the taxable income of the taxpayer computed without regard to items not attributable to a trade or business, business interest income or expense, net operating loss and capital loss carryovers and carrybacks, depreciation, amortization and depletion, certain gains from the sale of property and certain items from partnerships and S corporations. For taxable years beginning before 2022, deductions for depreciation, amortization and depletion for taxable will be taken into account in calculating adjusted taxable income.

Certain exceptions exist for small business taxpayers whose average annual gross receipts over the past three years do not exceed $25 million, certain electing real property trades or businesses, electing farming businesses, and certain utilities.

Economic Nexus/Wayfair: The South Dakota v. Wayfair decision means that states are now free to subject companies to state taxes based on an “economic” presence within their state. Taxpayers must now determine their nexus and filing obligations in states and localities, where compliance was not required before. This landmark decision presents an opportunity for taxpayers to enhance their technology solutions and update their reporting tools as they comply with state law changes.

READ MORE: Multi-State Tax & The Wayfair Fallout: What’s Next for Online Sellers

Bonus Depreciation: Expanded bonus depreciation rules allow taxpayers full expensing of both new and used qualifying property placed in service before 2023, creating significant incentives for making new investments in depreciable tangible property and computer software. Bonus depreciation allowances increased from 50 to 100 percent for qualified property acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017, and before 2023 (January 1, 2024, for longer production period property and certain aircraft).

Plan purchases of eligible property to assure maximum use of this annual asset expense election and bonus depreciation, as the 100-percent bonus depreciation deduction ends after 2023. Since bonus depreciation is not allowed on certain long-term property of an electing real property trade or business for interest deduction limitation purposes, an analysis should be performed to measure the cost of the forgone depreciation relative to the marginal benefit for the additional interest expense that would otherwise be allowed.

READ MORE: New Guidance on Taking Advantage of Expanded Bonus Depreciation

Federal Research Credit: The credit is now even more valuable to businesses after tax reform due in part to the repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax and new rules related to net operating loss limitations. Now that AMT has been repealed, companies that paid AMT may now be paying regular income tax, which can be offset by the R&D credit, and income tax that can no longer be offset by NOLs, the R&D credit may help offset. Taxpayers seeking to maximize the benefit of immediately deducting R&E expenditures should consider the effective date of the required amortization rule and, if possible, accelerate their R&D activities prior to December 31, 2021.

Opportunity Zones: New O-Zone tax incentives allow investors to defer tax on capital gains by investing in Qualified Opportunity Funds. Taxpayers can defer taxes by reinvesting capital gains from an asset sale into a qualified opportunity fund during the 180-day period beginning on the date of the sale or exchange giving rise to the capital gain.

Once rolled over, the capital gain will be tax-free until the fund is divested or the end of 2026, whichever occurs first. The investment in the fund will have a zero-tax basis.

(See the Lehigh Valley’s Qualified Opportunity Zones here.)

If the investment is held for five years, there is a 10-percent step-up in basis and a 15-percent step-up if held for seven years. If the investment is held in the opportunity fund for at least 10 years, those capital gains in excess of the rollover amount (i.e., not the original gain but the post-acquisition appreciation) would be permanently exempt from taxes. To maximize the potential benefits, taxpayers must invest in a Qualified Opportunity Fund before December 31, 2019.

Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax Rescinded: This change presents a tax planning opportunity, as AMT credits can offset the regular tax liability for years after 2017. Going forward, any prior AMT liabilities may offset the regular tax liability for any taxable year after 2017.

In addition, the AMT credit is refundable for any taxable year beginning after 2017 and before 2022 in an amount equal to 50 percent (100 percent for taxable years beginning in 2021) of the excess credit for the taxable year subject to a 6.2 percent sequestration rate.

A recent IRS announcement reversed the 6.2 percent holdback by stating that “for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, refund payments and credit elect and refund offset transactions due to refundable minimum tax credits under Section 53(e) will not be subject to sequestration.”

The GILTI, the FDII, and the BEAT: The 2017 tax reform package introduced several international tax packages that will either create tax liabilities or opportunities. Very generally, the anti-deferral regime is expanded under GILTI, which taxes U.S. shareholders of CFCs on certain types of income earned by the CFCs, similar subpart F income.

The BEAT imposes an additional tax on certain corporations that erode the U.S. tax base through certain types of payments made to related foreign persons that meet certain thresholds. And the FDII deduction provides a deduction for certain domestic corporations that service foreign customers or markets when the requirements are satisfied. For 2019, estimating the impact of GILTI, FDII, and the BEAT on their tax liabilities and deductions is a key international tax planning consideration.

Rather than looking at each credit and new tax provision in a vacuum, we advise clients to look at all the changes holistically to assess their impact and develop their tax planning strategies. It’s important to determine your company’s total tax liability and structure your planning to address the full picture of your organization. Contact us for the best tax planning advice for your company.

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Topics: Business tax planning, 2017 Federal Tax Reform

Concannon Miller’s unique, holistic and intimate approach to financial health sets us apart from smaller CPA firms with more limited resources as well as mega firms where mid-sized clients struggle for attention. Contact us here to talk about improving your business.

This communication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered at the time it was published. However, the general information herein is not intended to be nor should it be treated as tax, legal, or accounting advice. Additional issues could exist that would affect the tax treatment of a specific transaction and, therefore, taxpayers should seek advice from an independent tax advisor based on their particular circumstances before acting on any information presented. This information is not intended to be nor can it be used by any taxpayer for the purposes of avoiding tax penalties.

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