Since we're in the midst of national Small Business Week (it runs through May 23), the IRS is taking the opportunity to point out some of the business tax breaks in the new stimulus law.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, enacted Feb. 17, created, extended or expanded various business tax deductions and credits. They include extension of the bonus depreciation, the increased Section 179 deduction, the expanded net operating loss carryback, the exclusion of gain on the sale of some small-business stock, estimated tax requirement changes and a COBRA credit.
Some of these tax breaks are available this year only, meaning companies have just a few months to take action. Here is a quick rundown of some of the key provisions.
Faster Write-Offs for Certain Capital Expenditures
Many small businesses that invest in new property and equipment will be able to write off most or all of these purchases on their 2009 returns. The new law extends through 2009 the special 50 percent depreciation allowance, also known as bonus depreciation, and increased limits on the Section 179 deduction, named for the relevant section of the Internal Revenue Code. Normally, businesses recover these capital investments through annual depreciation deductions spread over several years. Both of these provisions encourage these investments by enabling businesses to write them off more quickly.
The bonus depreciation provision generally enables businesses to deduct half the cost of qualifying property in the year it is placed in service.
The Section 179 deduction enables small businesses to deduct up to $250,000 of the cost of machinery, equipment, vehicles, furniture and other qualifying property placed in service during 2009. Without the new law, the limit would have dropped to $133,000. The existing $25,000 limit still applies to sport utility vehicles. A special phase-out provision effectively targets the Section 179 deduction to small businesses and generally eliminates it for most larger businesses.
Expanded Net Operating Loss Carryback
Many small businesses that had expenses exceeding their incomes for 2008 can choose to carry those losses back for up to five years, instead of the usual two. For small businesses that were profitable in the past but lost money in 2008, this could mean a special tax refund. The option is available for a small business that has no more than an average of $15 million in gross receipts over a three-year period.
This option is still available for most eligible taxpayers, but only for a limited time. A corporation that operates on a calendar-year basis, for example, must file a claim by Sept. 15, 2009. For eligible individuals, the deadline is Oct. 15, 2009.
Eligible individuals should file a claim using Form 1045, and corporations should use Form 1139. Details can be found in the instructions for each of these forms, and answers to frequently-asked questions are posted on IRS.gov.
Exclusion of Gain on the Sale of Certain Stock
The new law provides an extra incentive for individuals who invest in small businesses. Investors in qualified small business stock can exclude 75 percent of the gain upon sale of the stock. This increased exclusion applies only if the qualified small business stock is acquired after Feb. 17, 2009 and before
Estimated Tax Requirement Modified
Many individual small business taxpayers may be able to defer, until the end of the year, paying a larger part of their 2009 tax obligations. For 2009, eligible individuals can make quarterly estimated tax payments equal to 90 percent of their 2009 tax or 90 percent of their 2008 tax, whichever is less. Individuals qualify if they received more than half of their gross income from their small businesses in 2008 and meet other requirements. For details, see Publication 505.
Employers that provide the 65 percent COBRA premium subsidy under the stimulus act to eligible former employees claim credit for this subsidy on their quarterly or annual employment tax returns. To help avoid imposing an unnecessary cash-flow burden, affected employers can reduce their employment tax deposits by the amount of the credit. For details, see Form 941. Answers to frequently-asked questions are posted on IRS.gov.
In addition to these small business specific provisions, other stimulus provisions affect companies large and small. The IRS has compiled a fact sheet detailing the business provisions in the new law.