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Small Business Act Tax Briefing

Congress has passed a small business jobs bill, the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (H.R. 5297), with valuable individual and business tax incentives totaling approximately $12 billion. Many of these tax incentives are temporary so you have only a short window of time in which to take advantage of them. Other tax incentives are permanent but require careful planning to maximize your tax benefits.

This legislation aims to encourage investment and provide access to additional capital. Please contact your advisor to discuss these provisions.

General business provisions

Bonus depreciation. An additional first-year depreciation deduction equal to 50 percent of the adjusted basis was available for qualified property placed in service in 2008 and 2009 (2009 and 2010 for certain longer-lived property and transportation property). The new law extends bonus depreciation for qualified property acquired and placed in service during 2010 (or placed in service during 2011 for certain longer-lived property and transportation property). The new law also includes a special long-term accounting rule for bonus depreciation.

Code Sec. 280F. The limitation under Code Sec. 280F on the amount of depreciation deductions allowed with respect to certain passenger automobiles is increased in the first year they are used in a business by $8,000 for automobiles that qualify and for which the taxpayer does not elect out of the additional first-year deduction. For 2010, therefore, maximum first-year depreciation for passenger automobiles is $11,060.

Code Sec. 179 expensing. The new law increases the maximum amount a taxpayer may expense under Code Sec. 179 to $500,000 and raises the phase-out threshold to $2 million. Enhanced Code Sec. 179 expensing is available for tax years beginning in 2010 and 2011. The new law also allows taxpayers to expense qualified leasehold investment property, qualified restaurant property and qualified retail improvement property. The maximum amount with respect to real property that may be expensed, however, is limited to $250,000.

Start-up business expenses. A certain amount of qualified business start-up expenses may be deductible in the tax year in which the active trade or business begins. The new law doubles the amount of start-up expenditures that a taxpayer may elect to deduct from $5,000 to $10,000 for tax years beginning in 2010. The new law also increases the deduction phase-out threshold so that the $10,000 is reduced, but not below zero, by the amount by which the cumulative cost of qualified start-up expenses exceeds $60,000.

S corporation built-in gains tax. A C corporation that converts to an S corporation generally must hold any appreciated assets for 10 years following the conversion or, if disposed of earlier, pay tax on the appreciation at the highest corporate level rate (currently 35 percent). The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (2009 Recovery Act) temporarily shortened the usual 10-year holding period to seven years for dispositions in tax years beginning in 2009 and 2010. The new law further shortens the holding period to five years in the case of any tax year beginning in 2011, if the fifth year in the recognition period precedes the tax year beginning in 2011.

Cell phones. In 1989, the IRS identified employer-provided cell phones as “listed property.” For listed property, no deduction is allowed unless a taxpayer adequately substantiates the expense and business usage of the property. The listed property designation was imposed on cell phones when they were novel, expensive, and not many individuals owned one. The new law removes cell phones from the definition of listed property for tax years beginning after December 31, 2009.

Small business provisions

Small business stock. To encourage investment in small businesses, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 temporarily increased the percentage exclusion for qualified small business stock acquired after February 17, 2009 and before January 1, 2011 to 75 percent. The new law raises the exclusion to 100 percent for qualified stock issued after the date of enactment and before January 1, 2011. The stock must be acquired at original issue from a qualified small business and held for at least five years.

General business credit. The new law extends the carryback period for eligible small business credits from one to five years. Eligible small business credits are defined for purposes of the new law as the sum of the general business credits determined for the tax year with respect to an eligible small business. An eligible small business is a corporation whose stock is not publicly traded, a partnership or a sole proprietorship. Additionally, the average annual gross receipts of the corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship for the prior three tax year periods cannot exceed $50 million. The extended carryback provision is effective for credits determined in the taxpayer’s first tax year beginning after December 31, 2009.

Code Sec. 6707A penalty relief. The new law reforms the Code Sec. 6707A penalty regime retroactively for taxpayers failing to disclose participation in reportable and listed transactions. Generally, the penalty would equal 75 percent of the reduction in tax reported on the participant’s return as a result of the transaction or that would result if the transaction was respected for federal tax purposes. Under the new law, the maximum penalty for an individual for failing to disclose a reportable transaction is $10,000 ($100,000 in the case of a listed transaction). The maximum penalty for all other taxpayers for failing to disclose a reportable transaction is $50,000 ($200,000 for all other persons).

Individual tax incentives

Retirement savings. The new law includes several provisions to encourage retirement savings. With many employees now saving for retirement using 401(k) plans, the new law provides a major Roth conversion option that can mean significantly more dollars available at retirement. Under the new law, if a Code Sec. 401(k), 403(b) or governmental 457(b) plan now sets up a qualified designated Roth contribution program, a distribution to an employee or surviving spouse from a non-designated Roth account under a plan may be rolled over to a designated Roth account within the same plan. The planning challenge in such a rollover conversion to a designated Roth account is that the converted balance is considered taxable income at the time of conversion, requiring tax to be paid either from the proceeds themselves or from cash otherwise available to the taxpayer. If an amount is rolled over in 2010, however, the new law helps ease that tax liability by treating the taxable converted amount as included ratably in income in equal amounts for 2011 and 2012 unless the taxpayer elects otherwise. The designated Roth provisions in the new law are effective immediately.

Self-employment. Individuals who are self-employed may claim a deduction for qualified health insurance costs for income tax purposes. For self-employment taxes, the self-employed individual cannot deduct any health insurance costs. The new law allows the deduction for the cost of health insurance in calculating net earnings from self-employment for purposes of self-employment (FICA) taxes. The provision is temporary and only applies to the self-employed taxpayer’s first tax year beginning after December 31, 2009.

The new law also allows partial annuitization of a nonqualified annuity contract. Holders of nonqualified annuities (annuity contracts held outside of a tax-qualified retirement plan or IRA) may elect to receive a portion of the contract in the form of a stream of annuity contracts, leaving the remainder of the contract to accumulate income on a tax-deferred basis. Only a portion of an annuity, endowment or life insurance contract may be annuitized while the balance is not annuitized. The annuitization period must be for 10 years or more, or for the lives of one or more individuals. The annuitization provision in the new law is effective for amounts received in tax years beginning after December 31, 2010. Annuitization requires careful planning; please contact our office for details.

Rental property expense payments

Among the new law’s revenue raising provisions is a new information reporting requirement that affects recipients of real estate rental income. Rental income recipients making payments of $600 or more to a service provider will file an information return with the IRS and the service provider. The new law permits the IRS to exclude individuals for whom reporting would be a hardship and individuals who receive only minimal amounts of rental income from the requirement. Certain members of the military and intelligence services are also excluded. The reporting provision applies to payments made after December 31, 2010.

If you have questions please contact our office for more information on these reporting requirements and if they apply to you.

For more information regarding this new act, read this article from WebCPA: House Passes Small Business Jobs Bill.