Year-End Tax Planning Moves for Businesses
Congress is headed towards an epic battle over sunsetting tax rules, already expired tax breaks and soon-to-expire tax breaks, and it looks as if the dust won't settle until late this year. A reasonable scenario would be for Congress to “buy itself time” to formulate a comprehensive tax reform plan by deferring the sunsets for another year, possibly with some modifications, patching the alternative minimum tax (AMT) again for another year, and extending core expired or expiring tax provisions. But in today's highly partisan political environment, a “reasonable” solution may not prevail. Thus, it would seem that the wisest contingency plan would be, where possible, to plan for both best and worst case scenarios and then settle on a course of action when the legislative picture is clear.
We can narrow down the specific actions that you can take once we meet with you to tailor a particular plan. In the meantime, please review the following list and contact us at your earliest convenience so that we can advise you on which tax-saving moves to make. We also should schedule a follow-up for later this year to see whether the November election results will require changes to year-end planning strategies.
- If your business is incorporated, consider taking money out of the business by way of a stock redemption if you are in the position to do so. The buy-back of the stock may yield long-term capital gain or a dividend, depending on a variety of factors. But either way, you'll be taxed at a maximum rate of only 15% if you act this year. If you wait until next year to make your move, your long-term gains or dividends may be taxed at a higher rate if reform plans are instituted or the Bush-era tax cuts expire. And if your adjusted gross income (as specially modified) exceeds certain limits ($250,000 for joint filers or surviving spouses, $125,000 for a married individual filing a separate return, and $200,000 for all others), gains taken next year (along with other types of unearned income, such as dividends and interest) will be exposed to an extra 3.8% tax (the so-called “unearned income Medicare contribution tax”). Keep in mind that you will need expert help to plan and execute an effective pre-2013 corporate distribution.
- If you are thinking of adding to payroll, consider hiring a qualifying veteran before year-end to qualify for a work opportunity tax credit (WOTC). Under current law, the WOTC for qualifying veterans won't be available for post-2012 hires. The WOTC for hiring veterans ranges from $2,400 to $9,600, depending on a variety of factors (such as the veteran's period of unemployment and whether he or she has a service-connected disability). Please note that in order to qualify for this credit there is additional paperwork required from the state regarding the qualification of the veteran.
- Put new business equipment and machinery in service before year-end to qualify for the 50% bonus first-year depreciation allowance. Unless Congress acts, this bonus depreciation allowance generally won't be available for property placed in service after 2012. (Certain specialized assets may, however, be placed in service in 2013.)
- Make expenses qualifying for the business property expensing option. The maximum amount you can expense for a tax year beginning in 2012 is $139,000 of the cost of qualifying property placed in service for that tax year. The $139,000 amount is reduced by the amount by which the cost of qualifying property placed in service during 2012 exceeds $560,000 (the investment ceiling). For tax years beginning in 2013, unless Congress makes a change, the expensing limit will be $25,000 and the investment ceiling will be $200,000. Thus, if you anticipate needing property in early 2013, you may want to push the purchase into 2012 to gain a higher expensing deduction (if you are otherwise eligible to claim it). The time of purchase doesn't affect the amount of the expensing deduction. You can purchase property late in the year and still get a full expensing deduction. Thus, property acquired and placed in service in the last days of 2012, rather than at the beginning of 2013, can result in a full expense deduction for 2012.
- If you are in the market for a business car, and your taste runs to large, heavy SUVs (those built on a truck chassis and rated at more than 6,000 pounds gross (loaded) vehicle weight), consider buying in 2012. Due to a combination of favorable depreciation and expensing rules, you may be able to write off most of the cost of the heavy SUV this year. Next year, the writeoff rules may not be as generous.
- Set up a self-employed retirement plan if you are self-employed and haven't done so yet.
- Increase your basis in a partnership or S corporation if doing so will enable you to deduct a loss from it for this year. A partner's share of partnership losses is deductible only to the extent of his partnership basis as of the end of the partnership year in which the loss occurs. An S corporation shareholder can deduct his pro rata share of an S corporation's losses only to the extent of the total of his basis in (a) his S corporation stock, and (b) debt owed to him by the S corporation.
Give us a call and let our experienced tax professionals guide you toward a year-end tax plan that works best for your business.