TAX CUTS AND JOBS ACT OFFERS FAVORABLE TAX BREAKS FOR
By: Laura A. Arens, CPA, MST, DKSS CPAs + Advisors
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which was signed into law on December 22, contains a treasure trove of tax breaks for small businesses. Overall, most companies and business owners will come out ahead under the new tax law, but there are a number of tax breaks that were eliminated or reduced to make room for other beneficial revisions. Here are the most important changes in the new law that will affect businesses and their owners.
New 21% corporate tax rate
Under pre-TCJA law, C corporations paid graduated federal income tax rates of 15% on taxable income of $0 to $50,000; 25% on taxable income of $50,001 to $75,000; 34% on taxable income of $75,001 to $10 million; and 35% on taxable income over $10 million. Personal service corporations (PSCs) paid a flat 35% rate.
For tax years beginning in 2018, the TCJA establishes a flat 21% corporate rate, and that rate also applies to PSCs.
New deduction for pass-through businesses
Under prior law, net taxable income from pass-through business entities (such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, S corporations and LLCs that are treated as sole proprietorships or as partnerships for tax purposes) was simply passed through to owners. It was then taxed at the owners’ standard rates. In other words, no special treatment applied to pass-through income recognized by business owners.
For tax years beginning in 2018, the TCJA establishes a new deduction based on a noncorporate owner’s qualified business income (QBI). This new tax break is available to individuals, estates and trusts that own interests in pass-through business entities. The deduction generally equals 20% of QBI, subject to restrictions that can apply at higher income levels.
The QBI deduction isn’t allowed in calculating the noncorporate owner’s adjusted gross income (AGI), but it reduces taxable income. In effect, it’s treated the same as an allowable itemized deduction.
W-2 wage limitation. For pass-through entities other than sole proprietorships, the QBI deduction generally can’t exceed the greater of the noncorporate owner’s share of:
50% of the amount of W-2 wages paid to employees by the qualified business during the tax year, or
The sum of 25% of W-2 wages plus 2.5% of the cost of qualified property.
Qualified property is the depreciable tangible property (including real estate) owned by a qualified business as of year end and used by the business at any point during the tax year for the production of qualified business income.
Under an exception, the W-2 wage limitation doesn’t apply until an individual owner’s taxable income exceeds $157,500 ($315,000 for joint filers). Above those income levels, the W-2 wage limitation is phased in over a $50,000 range ($100,000 range for joint filers).
Service business limitation. Finally, the QBI deduction generally isn’t available for income from specified service businesses (such as most professional practices (other than engineering and architecture) and businesses that involve investment-type services such as brokerage and investment advisory services). Under an exception, the service business limitation doesn’t apply until an individual owner’s taxable income exceeds $157,500 ($315,000 for joint filers). Above those income levels, the service business limitation is phased in over a $50,000 phase-in range ($100,000 range for joint filers).
The W-2 wage limitation and the service business limitation don’t apply as long as your taxable income is under the applicable threshold. In that case, you should qualify for the full 20% QBI deduction.
Reduced or eliminated employer deductions for business-related meals and entertainment
Prior to the TCJA, taxpayers generally could deduct 50% of expenses for business-related meals and entertainment. Meals provided to an employee for the convenience of the employer on the employer’s business premises were 100% deductible by the employer and tax-free to the recipient employee.
Under the new law, beginning in 2018, deductions for business-related entertainment expenses are disallowed. Meal expenses are still 50% deductible (some uncertainty currently exists), and the 50% disallowance rule will now also apply to meals provided via an on-premises cafeteria or otherwise on the employer’s premises for the convenience of the employer.
Changes to some employee fringe benefits
The new law disallows employer deductions for the cost of providing commuting transportation to an employee (such as hiring a car service), unless the transportation is necessary for the employee’s safety.
It also eliminates employer deductions for the cost of providing qualified employee transportation fringe benefits (for example, parking allowances, mass transit passes and van pooling), but those benefits are still tax-free to recipient employees.
Here are some of the other business-related changes in the TCJA:
For business net operating losses (NOLs) that arise in tax years ending after December 31, 2017, the maximum amount of taxable income that can be offset with NOL deductions is generally reduced from 100% to 80%. In addition, NOLs incurred in those years can no longer be carried back to an earlier tax year (except for certain farming losses). Affected NOLs can be carried forward indefinitely.
More generous business asset expensing and depreciation tax breaks are available. The maximum Section 179 deduction increases to $1 million, and the phaseout threshold amount is increased to $2.5 million (from $510,000 and $2.03 million respectively). There are also much better first-year bonus depreciation rules.
The Section 199 deduction, also commonly referred to as the domestic production activities deduction or manufacturers’ deduction, is eliminated for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, for noncorporate taxpayers and for tax years beginning after December 31, 2018, for C corporation taxpayers.
A new limitation applies to deductions for “excess business losses” incurred by noncorporate taxpayers. Losses that are disallowed under this rule are carried forward to later tax years and can then be deducted under the rules that apply to NOLs. This new limit kicks in after applying the passive activity loss rules. However, it applies to an individual taxpayer only if the excess business loss exceeds the applicable threshold.
The eligibility rules to use the more-flexible cash method of accounting are liberalized to make them available to many more medium-size businesses. Also, eligible businesses are excused from the chore of doing inventory accounting for tax purposes.
The TCJA is the largest overhaul of the tax code in more than 30 years, and we’ve covered only the highlights of the business-related tax provisions here. Please contact us if you have questions about how they may affect your business. Visit www.dksscpasmi.com or call 248-649-3400.
All content provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Matters discussed in this article are subject to change. For up-to-date information on this subject please contact a DKSS professional. DKSS CPAs + Advisors will not be held responsible for any claim, loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any information within this article.