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[Author: Michelle Thornburg, Koski Professional Group, P.C., 2014 | Keywords: Business, Operations, Tax]

The IRS has issued new capitalization regulations for the tax treatment of amounts paid to acquire, produce, or improve tangible property. The regulations must be followed for tax years that begin after December 31, 2013. The regulations are lengthy and complex. The summary below is only intended to give an overview of how to treat items of deduction and capitalization.

De Minimis Safe Harbor The regulations allow a taxpayer to deduct certain limited amounts paid for tangible property that are expensed for financial accounting purposes. For most taxpayers, the maximum purchase of personal property (equipment) that may be expensed is $500. A taxpayer with an Applicable Financial Statement (AFS) may deduct fixed asset purchases that do not exceed $5,000 per invoice, or per item as substantiated by the invoice. An “AFS” is a financial statement that is: 1) a certified audit by an independent CPA; 2) provided to any Federal or state agency (other than IRS); or 3) filed with the SEC. The Company’s capitalization policy must be in writing and must be effective as of January 1, 2014. The policy must provide that amounts paid for property that costs less than a specified dollar amount or has an economic useful life of 12 months or less will be expensed.

Capitalization or Deduction The regulations set forth the general rule that amounts paid to improve a unit of property must be capitalized. An improvement is defined as an expenditure that betters a unit of property, restores it, or adapts it to a new and different use.

Buildings When it comes to buildings, the regulations generally treat each building and its structural components as one unit of property (UOP) – the “building.” The regulations also list nine specific building systems that are treated as separate from the building structure. An improvement to the building is defined by its effect on those systems, rather than on the building as a whole. If a taxpayer restores a building structure, such as by replacing the entire roof, the payment is treated as an improvement to the single UOP consisting of the building and must be capitalized.

Routine Maintenance Safe Harbor The regulations include a safe harbor that allows certain expenses of routine maintenance to be deducted rather than capitalized. Routine maintenance means recurring activities that keep business property in ordinarily efficient operating condition, such as inspection, cleaning, testing, and replacement of damaged or worn parts. For a building structure or system, the taxpayer must reasonably expect to perform the maintenance more than once during the 10-year period that begins when the structure or system is placed in service. For property other than buildings, the taxpayer must reasonably expect to perform the activities more than once during the property’s class life for depreciation purposes.

Per-Building Safe Harbor for Qualifying Small Taxpayers The final regulations add a new safe harbor that allows qualifying small taxpayers (those with average annual gross receipts of $10 million or less in the three preceding tax years) to deduct improvements made to a building property with an unadjusted basis of $1 million or less. This safe harbor applies only if the total amount paid during the tax year for repairs, maintenance, and improvements to the building doesn’t exceed the lesser of $10,000 or 2 percent of the building’s unadjusted basis. This safe harbor may be elected annually on a building-by-building basis. It is elected by including a statement on the tax return for the year the costs are incurred for the building.

The new regulations are lengthy and complex. This article merely provides an overview of the new regulation, so you should consult with a professional about your own situation. Any information contained in this article is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.

Koski Professional Group, P.C., a CPA firm located in Omaha, NE has over 25 years of experience in working with equipment dealers in Nebraska and Iowa. Feel free to contact Randy Koski or Michelle Thornburg at 402.445.4040 with any questions on how these new regulations may impact you.