Growing your business with a new partner

There are several financial and legal implications when adding a new partner to a partnership. Here’s an example to illustrate: You and your partners are planning to admit a new partner. The new partner will acquire a one-third interest in the partnership by making a cash contribution to the business. Assume that your basis in your partnership interests is sufficient so that the decrease in your portions of the partnership’s liabilities because of the new partner’s entry won’t reduce your basis to zero.

More complex than it seems

Although adding a new partner may appear to be simple, it’s important to plan the new person’s entry properly to avoid various tax problems. Here are two issues to consider:

1. If there’s a change in the partners’ interests in unrealized receivables and substantially appreciated inventory items, the change will be treated as a sale of those items, with the result that the current partners will recognize gain. For this purpose, unrealized receivables include not only accounts receivable, but also depreciation recapture and certain other ordinary income items. To avoid gain recognition on those items, it’s necessary that they be allocated to the current partners even after the entry of the new partner.

2. The tax code requires that the “built-in gain or loss” on assets that were held by the partnership before the new partner was admitted be allocated to the current partners and not to the entering partner. In general, “built-in gain or loss” is the difference between the fair market value and basis of the partnership property at the time the new partner is admitted.

The upshot of these rules is that the new partner must be allocated a portion of the depreciation equal to his or her share of the depreciable property, based on current fair market value. This will reduce the amount of depreciation that can be taken by the current partners. The other outcome is that the built-in gain or loss on the partnership assets must be allocated to the current partners when the partnership assets are sold. The rules that apply in this area are complex, and the partnership may have to adopt special accounting procedures to cope with the relevant requirements.

Follow your basis

When adding a partner or making other changes, a partner’s basis in his or her interest can undergo frequent adjustment. It’s important to keep proper track of your basis because it can have an impact on these areas:

  • Gain or loss on the sale of your interest,
  • How partnership distributions to you are taxed, and
  • The maximum amount of partnership loss you can deduct.

We can help

Contact us if you’d like assistance in dealing with these issues or any other issues that may arise in connection with your partnership.

When do valuable gifts to charity require an appraisal?

If you donate valuable items to charity and you want to deduct them on your tax return, you may be required to get an appraisal. The IRS requires donors and charitable organizations to supply certain information to prove their right to deduct charitable contributions.

How can you protect your deduction?

First, be aware that in order to deduct charitable donations, you must itemize deductions. Due to today’s relatively high standard deduction amounts, fewer taxpayers are itemizing deductions on their federal returns than before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act became effective in 2018.

If you clear the itemizing hurdle and donate an item of property (or a group of similar items) worth more than $5,000, certain appraisal requirements apply. You must:

  • Get a “qualified appraisal,”
  • Receive the qualified appraisal before your tax return is due,
  • Attach an “appraisal summary” to the first tax return on which the deduction is claimed,
  • Include other information with the return, and
  • Maintain certain records.

Keep these definitions in mind. A “qualified appraisal” is a complex and detailed document. It must be prepared and signed by a qualified appraiser. An “appraisal summary” is a summary of a qualified appraisal made on Form 8283 and attached to the donor’s return.

While courts have allowed taxpayers some latitude in following these rules, you should aim for exact compliance.

The qualified appraisal isn’t submitted to the IRS in most cases. Instead, the appraisal summary, which is a separate statement prepared on an IRS form, is attached to the donor’s tax return. However, a copy of the appraisal must be attached for gifts of art valued at $20,000 or more and for all gifts of property valued at more than $500,000, other than inventory, publicly traded stock and intellectual property. If an item of art has been appraised at $50,000 or more, you can ask the IRS to issue a “Statement of Value” that can be used to substantiate the value.

What if you don’t comply with the requirements?

The penalty for failing to get a qualified appraisal and attach an appraisal summary to the return is denial of the charitable deduction. The deduction may be lost even if the property was valued correctly. There may be relief if the failure was due to reasonable cause.

Are there exceptions to the requirements?

A qualified appraisal isn’t required for contributions of:

  • A car, boat or airplane for which the deduction is limited to the charity’s gross sales proceeds,
  • Stock in trade, inventory or property held primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of business,
  • Publicly traded securities for which market quotations are “readily available,” and
  • Qualified intellectual property, such as a patent.

Also, only a partially completed appraisal summary must be attached to the tax return for contributions of:

  • Nonpublicly traded stock for which the claimed deduction is greater than $5,000 and doesn’t exceed $10,000, and
  • Publicly traded securities for which market quotations aren’t “readily available.”

What if you have more than one gift? 

If you make gifts of two or more items during a tax year, even to multiple charitable organizations, the claimed values of all property of the same category or type (such as stamps, paintings, books, stock that isn’t publicly traded, land, jewelry, furniture or toys) are added together in determining whether the $5,000 or $10,000 limits are exceeded.

The bottom line is you must be careful to comply with the appraisal requirements or risk disallowance of your charitable deduction. Contact us if you have any further questions or want to discuss your charitable giving plans.

Selling an appreciated vacation home?

Vacation homes in upscale areas may be worth way more than owners paid for them. That’s great, but what about taxes? Here are three scenarios to illustrate the federal income tax issues you face when selling an appreciated vacation home.

Scenario 1: You’ve never used the home as your primary residence

In this case, the home sale gain exclusion tax break (up to $250,000 or $500,000 for a married couple) is unavailable. Your vacation home sale profit will be treated as a capital gain.

If you’ve owned the property for more than one year, the gain will be taxed at no more than the 20% maximum federal rate on long-term capital gains (LTCGs), plus the net investment income tax (NIIT), if applicable. However, the 20% rate only applies to the lesser of:

  • Your net LTCG for the year, or
  • The excess of your taxable income, including any net LTCG, over the applicable threshold.

For 2024, the thresholds are $518,900 for single filers, $583,750 for married joint filers and $551,350 for heads of households. If your taxable income is below the applicable threshold, the maximum federal rate on net LTCGs is 15%.

If you also owe the 3.8% NIIT, the effective federal rate on some or all of your net LTCG will be 18.8% (15% + 3.8%) or 23.8% (20% + 3.8%).

You may owe state income tax, too.

Scenario 2: You’ve rented out the vacation home

In this situation, you probably deducted depreciation for rental periods. If so, the federal rate on gain attributable to depreciation (so-called unrecaptured Section 1250 gain) can be up to 25%, assuming you’ve held the property for over one year. You may also owe the 3.8% NIIT on the unrecaptured Section 1250 gain. Any remaining gain will be taxed at the federal rates explained earlier.

Plus, if you rented out the vacation home but used it only a little for personal purposes, it has probably been classified as a rental property for federal tax purposes. If so, you may have had rental losses that couldn’t be deducted currently due to the passive activity loss (PAL) rules. You can deduct these suspended PALs when the property is sold.

Scenario 3: You used the vacation home as a principal residence for a time

In this case, you might be able to claim the tax-saving principal residence gain exclusion break. Specifically, if you owned and used the property as your principal residence for at least two years during the five-year period ending on the sale date, you probably qualify for the exclusion.

There’s another major qualification rule for the home sale gain exclusion tax break. The exclusion is generally available only when you’ve not excluded an earlier gain within the two-year period ending on the date of the later sale. In other words, you generally cannot claim the gain exclusion until two years have passed since you last used it.

Of course, if you have a really big gain from selling your vacation home, it may be too big to fully shelter with the gain exclusion — even if you qualify for the maximum $250,000/$500,000 break. Assuming you’ve owned the property for more than one year, the part of the gain that can’t be excluded will be an LTCG taxed under the rules explained earlier.

Conclusion

Taxes on vacation home sales can get complicated, and we haven’t covered all the potential issues here. However, the tax results are simple if you’ve never rented out the property and never used it as a principal residence. We can fill in the blanks in your situation and answer any questions that you may have.

When partners pay expenses related to the business

It’s not unusual for a partner to incur expenses related to the partnership’s business. This is especially likely to occur in service partnerships such as an architecture or law firm. For example, partners in service partnerships may incur entertainment expenses in developing new client relationships. They may also incur expenses for: transportation to get to and from client meetings, professional publications, continuing education and home office. What’s the tax treatment of such expenses? Here are the answers.

Reimbursable or not

As long as the expenses are the type a partner is expected to pay without reimbursement under the partnership agreement or firm policy (written or unwritten), the partner can deduct the expenses on Schedule E of Form 1040. Conversely, a partner can’t deduct expenses if the partnership would have honored a request for reimbursement.

A partner’s unreimbursed partnership business expenses should also generally be included as deductions in arriving at the partner’s net income from self-employment on Schedule SE.

For example, let’s say you’re a partner in a local architecture firm. Under the firm’s partnership agreement, partners are expected to bear the costs of soliciting potential new business except in unusual cases where attracting a large potential new client is deemed to be a firm-wide goal. In attempting to attract new clients this year, you spend $4,500 of your own money on meal expenses. You receive no reimbursement from the firm. On your Schedule E, you should report a deductible item of $2,250 (50% of $4,500). You should also include the $2,250 as a deduction in calculating your net self-employment income on Schedule SE.

So far, so good, but here’s the issue: a partner can’t deduct expenses if they could have been reimbursed by the firm. In other words, no deduction is allowed for “voluntary” out-of-pocket expenses. The best way to eliminate any doubt about the proper tax treatment of unreimbursed partnership expenses is to install a written firm policy that clearly states what will and won’t be reimbursed. That way, the partners can deduct their unreimbursed firm-related business expenses without any problems from the IRS.

Office in a partner’s home

Subject to the normal deduction limits under the home office rules, a partner can deduct expenses allocable to the regular and exclusive use of a home office for partnership business. The partner’s deductible home office expenses should be reported on Schedule E in the same fashion as other unreimbursed partnership expenses.

If a partner has a deductible home office, the Schedule E home office deduction can deliver multiple tax-saving benefits because it’s effectively deducted for both federal income tax and self-employment tax purposes.

In addition, if the partner’s deductible home office qualifies as a principal place of business, commuting mileage from the home office to partnership business temporary work locations (such as client sites) and partnership permanent work locations (such as the partnership’s official office) count as business mileage.

The principal place of business test can be passed in two ways. First, the partner can conduct most of partnership income-earning activities in the home office. Second, the partner can pass the principal place of business test if he or she:

  • Uses the home office to conduct partnership administrative and management tasks and
  • Doesn’t make substantial use of any other fixed location (such as the partnership’s official office) for such administrative and management tasks.

To sum up

When a partner can be reimbursed for business expenses under a partnership agreement or standard operating procedures, the partner should turn them in. Otherwise, the partner can’t deduct the expenses. On the partnership side of the deal, the business should set forth a written firm policy that clearly states what will and won’t be reimbursed, including home office expenses if applicable. This applies equally to members of LLCs that are treated as partnerships for federal tax purposes because those members count as partners under tax law.

Scrupulous records and legitimate business expenses are the key to less painful IRS audits

We have been emphasizing to our clients that maintaining accurate records and taking advantage of proper deductions not only makes tax season less stressful but also sets the stage for effective long-term financial planning. This proactive approach helps to minimize the risk of errors or audits enabling your efficient and strategic tax planning.

If you operate a business, or you’re starting a new one, you know records of income and expenses need to be kept. Specifically, you should carefully record expenses to claim all the tax deductions to which you’re entitled. And you want to make sure you can defend the amounts reported on your tax returns in case you’re ever audited by the IRS.

Be aware that there’s no one way to keep business records. On its website, the IRS states: “You can choose any recordkeeping system suited to your business that clearly shows your income and expenses.” But there are strict rules when it comes to deducting legitimate expenses for tax purposes. And certain types of expenses, such as automobile, travel, meal and home office costs, require extra attention because they’re subject to special recordkeeping requirements or limitations on deductibility.

Ordinary and necessary

A business expense can be deducted if a taxpayer establishes that the primary objective of the activity is making a profit. To be deductible, a business expense must be “ordinary and necessary.” In one recent case, a married couple claimed business deductions that the IRS and the U.S. Tax Court mostly disallowed. The reasons: The expenses were found to be personal in nature and the taxpayers didn’t have adequate records for them.

In the case, the husband was a salaried executive. With his wife, he started a separate business as an S corporation. His sideline business identified new markets for chemical producers and connected them with potential customers. The couple’s two sons began working for the business when they were in high school.

The couple then formed a separate C corporation that engaged in marketing. For some of the years in question, the taxpayers reported the income and expenses of the businesses on their joint tax returns. The businesses conducted meetings at properties the family owned (and resided in) and paid the couple rent for the meetings.

The IRS selected the couple’s returns for audit. Among the deductions the IRS and the Tax Court disallowed:

  • Travel expenses. The couple submitted reconstructed travel logs to the court, rather than records kept contemporaneously. The court noted that the couple didn’t provide “any documentary evidence or other direct or circumstantial evidence of the time, location, and business purpose of each reported travel expense.”
  • Marketing fees paid by the S corporation to the C corporation. The court found that no marketing or promotion was done. Instead, the funds were used to pay several personal family expenses.
  • Rent paid to the couple for the business use of their homes. The court stated the amounts “were unreasonable and something other than rent.”

Retirement plan deductions allowed

The couple did prevail on deductions for contributions to 401(k) accounts for their sons. The IRS contended that the sons weren’t employees during one year in which contributions were made for them. However, the court found that 401(k) plan documents did mention the sons working in the business and the father “credibly recounted assigning them research tasks and overseeing their work while they were in school.” Thus, the court ruled the taxpayers were entitled to the retirement plan deductions. (TC Memo 2023-140)

Lessons learned

As this case illustrates, a business can’t deduct personal expenses, and scrupulous records are critical. Make sure to use your business bank account for business purposes only. In addition, maintain meticulous records to help prepare your tax returns and prove deductible business expenses in the event of an IRS audit.

Contact us if you have questions about retaining adequate business records.

Coordinating Sec. 179 tax deductions with bonus depreciation

Your business should generally maximize current year depreciation write-offs for newly acquired assets. Two federal tax breaks can be a big help in achieving this goal: first-year Section 179 depreciation deductions and first-year bonus depreciation deductions. These two deductions can potentially allow businesses to write off some or all of their qualifying asset expenses in Year 1. However, they’re moving targets due to annual inflation adjustments and tax law changes that phase out bonus depreciation. With that in mind, here’s how to coordinate these write-offs for optimal tax-saving results.

Sec. 179 deduction basics

Most tangible depreciable business assets — including equipment, computer hardware, vehicles (subject to limits), furniture, most software and fixtures — qualify for the first-year Sec. 179 deduction.

Depreciable real property generally doesn’t qualify unless it’s qualified improvement property (QIP). QIP means any improvement to an interior portion of a nonresidential building that’s placed in service after the date the building is placed in service — except for any expenditures attributable to the enlargement of the building, any elevator or escalator, or the internal structural framework. Sec. 179 deductions are also allowed for nonresidential building roofs, HVAC equipment, fire protection systems and security systems.

The inflation-adjusted maximum Sec. 179 deduction for tax years beginning in 2024 is $1.22 million. It begins to be phased out if 2024 qualified asset additions exceed $3.05 million. (These are up from $1.16 million and $2.89 million, respectively, in 2023.)

Bonus depreciation basics

Most tangible depreciable business assets also qualify for first-year bonus depreciation. In addition, software and QIP generally qualify. To be eligible, a used asset must be new to the taxpayer.

For qualifying assets placed in service in 2024, the first-year bonus depreciation percentage is 60%. This is down from 80% in 2023.

Sec. 179 vs. bonus depreciation

The current Sec. 179 deduction rules are generous, but there are several limitations:

  • The phase-out rule mentioned above,
  • A business taxable income limitation that disallows deductions that would result in an overall business taxable loss,
  • A limited deduction for SUVs with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 6,000 pounds, and
  • Tricky limitation rules when assets are owned by pass-through entities such as LLCs, partnerships, and S corporations.

First-year bonus depreciation deductions aren’t subject to any complicated limitations. But, as mentioned earlier, the bonus depreciation percentages for 2024 and 2023 are only 60% and 80%, respectively.

So, the current tax-saving strategy is to write off as much of the cost of qualifying asset additions as you can with Sec. 179 deductions. Then claim as much first-year bonus depreciation as you can.

Example: In 2024, your calendar-tax-year C corporation places in service $500,000 of assets that qualify for both a Sec. 179 deduction and first-year bonus depreciation. However, due to the taxable income limitation, the company’s Sec. 179 deduction is limited to only $300,000. You can deduct the $300,000 on your corporation’s 2024 federal income tax return. You can then deduct 60% of the remaining $200,000 ($500,000 − $300,000), thanks to first-year bonus depreciation. So, your corporation can write off $420,000 in 2024 [$300,000 + (60% x $200,000) = $420,000]. That’s 84% of the cost! Note that the $200,000 bonus depreciation deduction will contribute to a corporate net operating loss that’s carried forward to your 2025 tax year.

Manage tax breaks

As you can see, coordinating Sec. 179 deductions with bonus depreciation deductions is a tax-wise idea. We can provide details on how the rules work or answer any questions you have.

How renting out a vacation property will affect your taxes

Are you dreaming of buying a vacation beach home, lakefront cottage or ski chalet? Or perhaps you’re fortunate enough to already own a vacation home. In either case, you may wonder about the tax implications of renting it out for part of the year.

Count the days

The tax treatment depends on how many days it’s rented and your level of personal use. Personal use includes vacation use by your relatives (even if you charge them market rate rent) and use by nonrelatives if a market rate rent isn’t charged.

If you rent the property out for less than 15 days during the year, it’s not treated as “rental property” at all. In the right circumstances, this can produce significant tax benefits. Any rent you receive isn’t included in your income for tax purposes (no matter how substantial). On the other hand, you can only deduct property taxes and mortgage interest — no other operating costs and no depreciation. (Mortgage interest is deductible on your principal residence and one other home, subject to certain limits.)

If you rent the property out for more than 14 days, you must include the rent you receive in income. However, you can deduct part of your operating expenses and depreciation, subject to several rules. First, you must allocate your expenses between the personal use days and the rental days. For example, if the house is rented for 90 days and used personally for 30 days, then 75% of the use is rental (90 days out of 120 total days). You would allocate 75% of your maintenance, utilities, insurance, etc. costs to rental. You would allocate 75% of your depreciation allowance, interest and taxes for the property to rental as well. The personal use portion of taxes is separately deductible. The personal use portion of interest on a second home is also deductible if the personal use exceeds the greater of 14 days or 10% of the rental days. However, depreciation on the personal use portion isn’t allowed.

Income and expenses

If the rental income exceeds these allocable deductions, you report the rent and deductions to determine the amount of rental income to add to your other income. If the expenses exceed the income, you may be able to claim a rental loss. This depends on how many days you use the house personally.

Here’s the test: if you use it personally for the greater of more than 14 days, or 10% of the rental days, you’re using it “too much,” and you can’t claim a loss. In this case, you can still use your deductions to wipe out rental income, but you can’t go beyond that to create a loss. Any unused deductions are carried forward and may be usable in future years.

If you’re limited to using deductions only up to the amount of rental income, you must use the deductions allocated to the rental portion in the following order:

  • Interest and taxes,
  • Operating costs, and
  • Depreciation.

If you “pass” the personal use test (that is, you don’t use the property personally more than the greater of the figures listed above), you must still allocate your expenses between the personal and rental portions. In this case, however, if your rental deductions exceed rental income, you can claim a loss. (The loss is “passive,” however, and may be limited under the passive loss rules.)

Plan ahead for best results

As you can see, the rules are complex. Contact us if you have questions or would like to plan ahead to maximize deductions in your situation.

Important: Filing for Tax Extensions Before Original Due Dates

As we approach the tax season, I want to ensure that you’re fully informed about the strategies we’re implementing to manage your tax filings effectively, especially considering the recent storms and flooding in January in San Diego County.

Given the IRS’s extension due to the storms and flooding in San Diego County, San Diego County taxpayers have been granted an extended filing due date of June 17, 2024, for their 2023 federal income tax returns along with the payment dues listed below.  While this extension provides some leeway, we want to take a proactive approach to ensure your tax matters are handled smoothly and without any potential issues.

  • Individual income tax returns and payments normally due on April 15, 2024.
  • 2023 contributions to IRAs and health savings accounts for eligible taxpayers.
  • 2024 estimated tax payments normally due on April 15, 2024.
  • Quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due on Jan. 31 and April 30, 2024.
  • Calendar-year partnership and S corporation returns normally due on March 15, 2024.
  • Calendar-year corporation and fiduciary returns and payments normally due on April 15, 2024.
  • Calendar-year tax-exempt organization returns normally due on May 15, 2024.
  • Also, penalties for failing to make payroll and excise tax deposits due on or after Jan. 21, 2024, and before Feb. 5, 2024, will be abated as long as the deposits were made by Feb. 5, 2024.

Who is affected?

This extended due date applies to taxpayers who have their address in San Diego County. However, it is possible an affected taxpayer may not have an IRS address of record located in the disaster area, for example, because they moved to the disaster area after filing their return. In these kinds of unique circumstances, the affected taxpayer could receive a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS for the postponement period. The taxpayer should call the number on the notice to have the penalty abated.

In addition, the IRS will work with any taxpayer who lives outside the disaster area but whose records necessary to meet a deadline occurring during the postponement period are located in the affected area. Taxpayers qualifying for relief who live outside the disaster area need to contact the IRS at 866-562-5227. This also includes workers assisting the relief activities who are affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization.

Filing Extensions by the Original Due Dates:

To provide you with the utmost certainty and to avoid any unnecessary complications, we are planning to file extensions by the original due dates for your tax returns. This approach guarantees that your extended filing date will be either September 15, 2024, or October 15, 2024, depending on your entity type and personal return requirements.

Why We’re Taking This Step:

Relying solely on the extended due date of June 17, 2024, poses a risk. Should there be a need to seek an extension beyond this date and it is not filed by March 15, 2024 or April 15, 2024, most of the cases, we would be required to file the extension request on paper. This not only introduces potential delays but also additional hassle for both you and our team.

The most prudent action is to file electronically by the original due dates to ensure a hassle-free process. This preemptive measure avoids the complexities of paper filing and ensures everything is in order for your 2023 tax filings.

Reminder About Extensions and Payments:

It’s important to remember that while an extension grants additional time to file, it does not extend the time to pay any taxes owed. The IRS urges those who need an extension beyond the initial extended due date to request it electronically by March 15, 2024, and April 15, 2024, to avoid needing paper filing. Please note that any payments due are still required by June 17, 2024. For more information, you can visit www.IRS.gov/extensions.

Our team is here to assist you through this process and to ensure that your tax filing experience is as smooth and efficient as possible. Our team has been sending the extension reminder along with any payment vouchers if required. We believe that taking these steps now will provide you with peace of mind and a clear path forward in managing your tax obligations.

Should you have any questions or require further clarification, please do not hesitate to reach out. Your peace of mind and financial well-being are our top priorities, and we are here to support you every step of the way.

Better tax break when applying the research credit against payroll taxes

The credit for increasing research activities, often referred to as the research and development (R&D) credit, is a valuable tax break available to certain eligible small businesses. Claiming the credit involves complex calculations, which we’ll take care of for you.

But in addition to the credit itself, be aware that there are two additional features that are especially favorable to small businesses:

  • Eligible small businesses ($50 million or less in gross receipts for the three prior tax years) may claim the credit against alternative minimum tax (AMT) liability.
  • The credit can be used by certain smaller startup businesses against their Social Security payroll and Medicare tax liability.

Let’s take a look at the second feature. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has doubled the amount of the payroll tax credit election for qualified businesses and made a change to the eligible types of payroll taxes it can be applied to, making it better than it was before the law changes kicked in.

Election basics

Subject to limits, your business can elect to apply all or some of any research tax credit that you earn against your payroll taxes instead of your income tax. This payroll tax election may influence you to undertake or increase your research activities. On the other hand, if you’re engaged in — or are planning to undertake — research activities without regard to tax consequences, you could receive some tax relief.

Many new businesses, even if they have some cash flow, or even net positive cash flow and/or a book profit, pay no income taxes and won’t for some time. Thus, there’s no amount against which business credits, including the research credit, can be applied. On the other hand, any wage-paying business, even a new one, has payroll tax liabilities. Therefore, the payroll tax election is an opportunity to get immediate use out of the research credits that you earn. Because every dollar of credit-eligible expenditure can result in as much as a 10-cent tax credit, that’s a big help in the start-up phase of a business — the time when help is most needed.

Eligible businesses

To qualify for the election a taxpayer must:

  • Have gross receipts for the election year of less than $5 million, and
  • Be no more than five years past the period for which it had no receipts (the start-up period).

In making these determinations, the only gross receipts that an individual taxpayer considers are from the individual’s businesses. An individual’s salary, investment income or other income aren’t taken into account. Also, note that an entity or individual can’t make the election for more than six years in a row.

Limits on the election

The research credit for which the taxpayer makes the payroll tax election can be applied against the employer portion of Social Security and Medicare. It can’t be used to lower the FICA taxes that an employer withholds and remits to the government on behalf of employees. Before a provision in the IRA became effective for 2023 and later years, taxpayers were only allowed to use the payroll tax offset against Social Security, not Medicare.

The amount of research credit for which the election can be made can’t annually exceed $500,000. Prior to the IRA, the maximum credit amount allowed to offset payroll tax before 2023 was only $250,000. Note, too, that an individual or C corporation can make the election only for those research credits which, in the absence of an election, would have to be carried forward. In other words, a C corporation can’t make the election for the research credit to reduce current or past income tax liabilities.

These are just the basics of the payroll tax election. Keep in mind that identifying and substantiating expenses eligible for the research credit itself is a complex task. Contact us about whether you can benefit from the payroll tax election and the research tax credit.

Tax-wise ways to take cash from your corporation while avoiding dividend treatment

If you want to withdraw cash from your closely held corporation at a low tax cost, the easiest way is to distribute cash as a dividend. However, a dividend distribution isn’t tax efficient since it’s taxable to you to the extent of your corporation’s “earnings and profits,” but it’s not deductible by the corporation.

5 different approaches

Thankfully, there are some alternative methods that may allow you to withdraw cash from a corporation while avoiding dividend treatment. Here are five possible options:

1. Salary. Reasonable compensation that you, or family members, receive for services rendered to the corporation is deductible by the business. However, it’s also taxable to the recipient(s). The same rule applies to any compensation (in the form of rent) that you receive from the corporation for the use of property. In either case, the amount of compensation must be reasonable in relation to the services rendered or the value of the property provided. If it’s excessive, the excess will be nondeductible and treated as a corporate distribution.

2. Fringe benefits. Consider obtaining the equivalent of a cash withdrawal in fringe benefits that are deductible by the corporation and not taxable to you. Examples are life insurance, certain medical benefits, disability insurance and dependent care. Most of these benefits are tax-free only if provided on a nondiscriminatory basis to other employees of the corporation. You can also establish a salary reduction plan that allows you (and other employees) to take a portion of your compensation as nontaxable benefits, rather than as taxable compensation.

3. Capital repayments. To the extent that you’ve capitalized the corporation with debt, including amounts that you’ve advanced to the business, the corporation can repay the debt without the repayment being treated as a dividend. Additionally, interest paid on the debt can be deducted by the corporation. This assumes that the debt has been properly documented with terms that characterize debt and that the corporation doesn’t have an excessively high debt-to-equity ratio. If not, the “debt” repayment may be taxed as a dividend. If you make cash contributions to the corporation in the future, consider structuring them as debt to facilitate later withdrawals on a tax-advantaged basis.

4. Loans. You may withdraw cash from the corporation tax-free by borrowing money from it. However, to avoid having the loan characterized as a corporate distribution, it should be properly documented in a loan agreement or a note and be made on terms that are comparable to those on which an unrelated third party would lend money to you. This should include a provision for interest and principal. All interest and principal payments should be made when required under the loan terms. Also, consider the effect of the corporation’s receipt of interest income.

5. Property sales. You can withdraw cash from the corporation by selling property to it. However, certain sales should be avoided. For example, you shouldn’t sell property to a more than 50% owned corporation at a loss, since the loss will be disallowed. And you shouldn’t sell depreciable property to a more than 50% owned corporation at a gain, since the gain will be treated as ordinary income, rather than capital gain. A sale should be on terms that are comparable to those on which an unrelated third party would purchase the property. You may need to obtain an independent appraisal to establish the property’s value.

Minimize taxes

If you’re interested in discussing any of these ideas, contact us. We can help you get the maximum out of your corporation at the minimum tax cost.