Prepare for Possible Revival of Expired Business Breaks

Written on November 12, 2015

Year-end tax planning for businesses often focuses on acquiring equipment, machinery, vehicles or other qualifying assets to take advantage of enhanced depreciation tax breaks. Unfortunately, the following breaks were among those that expired on December 31, 2014: Enhanced Section 179 expensing election. Before 2015, Sec. 179 permitted businesses to immediately deduct, rather than depreciate, up to $500,000 in qualified new or used assets. The deduction was phased out, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, to the extent qualified asset purchases for the year exceeded $2 million. Because Congress failed to extend the enhanced election beyond 2014, these limits have dropped to only $25,000 and $200,000, respectively. 50% bonus depreciation. Also expiring at the end of 2014, this provision allowed businesses to claim an additional first-year depreciation deduction equal to 50% of qualified asset costs. Bonus depreciation generally was available for new (not used) tangible assets with a recovery period of 20 years or less, as well as for off-the-shelf software. Currently, it’s unavailable for 2015 (with limited exceptions). Lawmakers may restore enhanced expensing and bonus depreciation retroactively to the beginning of 2015, but they probably won’t take any action until late in the year. In the meantime, how should you handle qualified asset purchases?

  • If you need equipment or other assets to run your business, acquire it regardless of the availability of tax breaks.
  • For less urgent asset needs, consider spending up to $25,000 — the amount you’ll be able to expense regardless of whether Congress extends the expired breaks.
  • For additional planned asset purchases, consider taking a wait-and-see approach and be prepared to act quickly if and when “tax extenders” legislation is signed into law.

Keep in mind that, to take advantage of depreciation tax breaks on your 2015 tax return, you’ll need to place assets in service by the end of the year. Paying for them this year isn’t enough. Other expired tax provisions to keep an eye on include the research credit, the Work Opportunity credit, Empowerment Zone incentives and a variety of energy-related tax breaks. Follow traditional year-end strategies for businesses As always, consider traditional year-end planning strategies, such as deferring income to 2016 and accelerating deductible expenses into 2015. If your business uses the cash method of accounting, you may be able to defer income by delaying invoices until late in the year or accelerate deductions by paying certain expenses in advance. If your business uses the accrual method of accounting, you may be able to defer the tax on certain advance payments you receive this year. You may also be able to deduct year-end bonuses accrued in 2015 even if they aren’t paid until 2016 (provided they’re paid within 2½ months after the end of the tax year). But deferring income and accelerating deductions isn’t the best strategy in all circumstances. If you expect your business’s marginal tax rate to be higher next year, you may be better off accelerating income into 2015 and deferring deductions to 2016. This strategy will increase your 2015 tax bill, but it can reduce your overall tax liability for the two-year period. Finally, consider switching your tax accounting method from accrual to cash or vice versa if your business is eligible and doing so will lower your tax bill. until late in the year or accelerate deductions by paying certain expenses in advance. If your business uses the accrual method of accounting, you may be able to defer the tax on certain advance payments you receive this year. You may also be able to deduct year-end bonuses accrued in 2015 even if they aren’t paid until 2016 (provided they’re paid within 2½ months after the end of the tax year). But deferring income and accelerating deductions isn’t the best strategy in all circumstances. If you expect your business’s marginal tax rate to be higher next year, you may be better off accelerating income into 2015 and deferring deductions to 2016. This strategy will increase your 2015 tax bill, but it can reduce your overall tax liability for the two-year period. Finally, consider switching your tax accounting method from accrual to cash or vice versa if your business is eligible and doing so will lower your tax bill.

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