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Nine Things a Business Owner Should Know After Tax Reform

As a business owner, you should be aware of some recent federal tax legislation changes. Many of the changes can affect the bottom line for the business as well as you as the business owner — some in a good way and some in a bad way.

1. The taxable income of a C corporation is now taxed at a flat 21% rate. Previously, the tax rates generally ranged from 15% to 35% (but some income was taxed as high as 39%). There is no longer a corporate alternative minimum tax.

2. Individual income tax rates have been reduced to 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%. Net long-term capital gains and qualified dividends continue to be taxed generally at 0%, 15%, and 20%, depending on the amount of your taxable income.

3. A new pass-through income deduction is available to many owners of sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations. This deduction is for up to 20% of qualified business income (QBI) from such business entities. If your taxable income exceeds certain thresholds, the deduction is limited based on factors such as the wages and qualified property of the business. Additionally, individuals with higher taxable incomes may not be able to claim a deduction if the business involves the performance of services in fields that include health, law, accounting, performing arts, consulting, athletics, and financial services, among others.

4. Small businesses have the option of expensing certain purchases under IRC Section 179 rather than depreciating the value of the purchases over time. Up to $1,020,000 (in 2019) of qualifying Section 179 property can now be expensed. The amount that can be expensed is reduced to the extent that qualifying property exceeds $2,550,000 (in 2019). These amounts are indexed for inflation and may increase in future years.

5. When a business purchases an asset, the business can generally deduct the cost of the asset over a period of time. For qualified property purchased after September 27, 2017, first-year bonus depreciation of 100% is available if the property is placed in service before 2023 (2024 for certain property). The 100% allowance is phased down by 20% each year after 2022 (or 2023 for certain property). The 100% bonus depreciation essentially allows business property to be expensed, rather than deducting the cost of depreciable property over a number of years.

6. Under a new provision, an excess business loss cannot be deducted. An excess business loss is equal to the amount by which your total deductions from all of your trades and businesses exceed your total gross income and gains from all of your trades and businesses plus $250,000 ($500,000 in the case of a joint return). As before, losses from a passive trade or business activity may be limited under the passive loss rules. The passive loss rules are applied before this new limitation is determined. Disallowed excess business losses are treated as a net operating loss carryover to future tax years.

7. A net operating loss generally arises when a taxpayer’s deductible expenses for a year exceed its gross income. Previously, a net operating loss for the current year could be carried back to prior tax years and forward to future tax years as a deduction against taxable income. The deduction for a net operating loss for a taxpayer other than a C corporation is now limited to 80% (previously 100%) of taxable income computed without regard to this deduction. Even though a net operating loss can no longer be carried back two years, it can still be carried forward for up to 20 years, subject to the deduction limit in the carryover years. Certain farming losses may now be carried back only two years (rather than five years), as well as carried forward for 20 years.

8. A like-kind exchange provision allows property to be exchanged tax-free under certain circumstances. The general like-kind exchange provision now applies only to exchanges of real property held for use in a trade or business or for investment and not to exchanges of personal or intangible property. For example, assume you own your office building without a mortgage. You are interested in moving to a new office building. If you sold your current office building, you would recognize capital gains. If instead you exchanged your current office building for the new office building in a like-kind exchange without receiving any cash or non-like-kind property, you would not recognize any capital gains at the time of the exchange.

9. A deduction is no longer allowed for entertainment expenses. Food and beverages provided during entertainment events are not considered entertainment if purchased separately from the event. Taxpayers may still deduct 50% of the expenses for business meals.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019