The Tax Reform & Tax Rate Changes You Should Know

On December 20, the House approved H.R. 1, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” the sweeping tax reform measure, by a vote of 224 to 201. The Senate had passed the measure, as revised to address some procedural complications, the night before, and the bill was signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017.

This article describes key business tax changes that are made under the Act, including:

  • a reduction in the corporate tax rate to a flat 21% rate
  • an increase in expensing to $1 million
  • a temporary 100% first year qualifying business asset deduction
  • a 5-year write-off period for R&D expenses
  • a limitation on the deduction for business interest
  • and elimination of the domestic production activities deduction

RIA observation: The revised version of the bill carries the title “An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018.” This article refers to the Act by its former and commonly used name: The “Tax Cuts and Job Act.”

TAX RATES

Corporate Tax Rates Reduced

Under pre-Act law, corporations are subject to graduated tax rates of 15% (for taxable income of $0-$50,000), 25% (for taxable income of $50,001-$75,000), 34% (for taxable income of $75,001-$10,000,000), and 35% (for taxable income over $10,000,000). Personal service corporations pay tax on their entire taxable income at the rate of 35%.

New law

For tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, the corporate tax rate is a flat 21% rate.

Dividends-Received Deduction Percentages Reduced

Under pre-Act law, corporations that receive dividends from other corporations are entitled to a deduction for dividends received. If the corporation owns at least 20% of the stock of another corporation, an 80% dividends received deduction is allowed. Otherwise, a 70% deduction is allowed.

New law

For tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, the 80% dividends received deduction is reduced to 65%, and the 70% dividends received deduction is reduced to 50%.

Alternative Minimum Tax Repealed

Under pre-Act law, the corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT) is 20%, with an exemption amount of up to $40,000. Corporations with average gross receipts of less than $7.5 million for the preceding three tax years are exempt from the AMT. The exemption amount phases out starting at $150,000 of alternative minimum taxable income.

New law

For tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, the corporate AMT is repealed.

For a corporation, the AMT credit si allowed to offset the regular tax liability for any taxe year. For tax years beginning after 2017 and before 2022, the AMT credit is refundable in an amount equal to 50% (100% for tax years beginning in 2021) of the excess of the minimum tax credit for the tax year over the amount of the credit allowable for the year against regular tax liability. Accordingly, the full amount of the minimum tax credit will be allowed in tax years beginning before 2022.

tax reform

EXPENSING & DEPRECIATION

Increased Code 179 Expensing

A taxpayer may, subject to limitations, elect under Code Section 179 to deduct (or “expense”) the cost of qualifying property, rather than to recover such costs through depreciation deductions. Under pre-Act law, the maximum amount a taxpayer could expense was $500,000 of the cost of qualifying property placed in service for the tax year. The $500,000 amount was reduced (but not below zero) by the amount by which the cost of qualifying property placed in service during the tax year exceeds $2 million. These amounts were indexed for inflation.

In general, qualifying property is defined as depreciable tangible personal property that is purchased for use in the active conduct of a trade or business, and includes off-the-shelf computer software and qualified real property (i.e., qualified leasehold improvement property, qualified restaurant property, and qualified retail improvement property).

Passenger automobiles subject to the Code Sec. 280F limitation are eligible for Code Sec. 179 expensing only to the extent of the Code Sec. 280F dollar limitations. For sport utility vehicles above the 6,000 pound weight rating and not more than the 14,000 pound weight rating, which are not subject to the Code Sec. 280F limitation, the maximum cost that may be expensed for any tax year under Code Sec. 179 is $25,000.

New law

For property placed in service in tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, the maximum amount a taxpayer may expense under Code Sec. 179 is increased to $1 million, and the phase-out threshold amount is increased to $2.5 million. For tax years beginning after 2018, these amounts (as well as the $25,000 sport utility vehicle limitation) are indexed for inflation. Property is not treated as acquired after the date on which a written binding contract is entered into for such acquisition.

“Qualified real property.” The definition of Code Sec. 179 property is expanded to include certain depreciable tangible personal property used predominantly to furnish lodging or in connection with furnishing lodging. The definition of qualified real property eligible for Code Sec. 179 expensing is also expanded to include the following improvements to nonresidential real property after the date such property was first placed in service: roofs; heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning property; fire protection and alarm systems; and security systems.

Temporary 100% Cost Recovery of Qualifying Business Assets

Under pre-Act law, an additional first-year bonus depreciation deduction was allowed equal to 50% of the adjusted basis of qualified property, the original use of which began with the taxpayer, placed in service before Jan. 1, 2020 (Jan. 1, 2021, for certain property with a longer production period). The 50% allowance was phased down for property placed in service after Dec. 31, 2017 (after Dec. 31, 2018 for certain property with a longer production period). A first-year depreciation deduction is also electively available for certain plants bearing fruit or nuts planted or grafted after 2015 and before 2020. Film productions aren’t eligible for bonus depreciation.

New law

A 100% first-year deduction for the adjusted basis is allowed for qualified property acquired and placed in service after Sept. 27, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2023 (after Sept. 27, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2024, for certain property with longer production periods).

Thus, the phase-down of the 50% allowance for property placed in service after Dec. 31, 2017, and for specified plants planted or grafted after that date, is repealed. The additional first-year depreciation deduction is allowed for new and used property. (The pre-Act law phase-down of bonus depreciation applies to property acquired before Sept. 28, 2017, and placed in service after Sept. 27, 2017.)

*RIA caution: The Act refers to the new 100% depreciation deduction in the placed-in-service year as “100% expensing,” but the tax break should not be confused with expensing under Code Sec. 179, which is subject to entirely separate rules (see above).*

As you can see, there are likely benefits for your business under Tax Reform. In order to benefit now while conforming to these tax changes, we invite you to contact Palma Financial Services, Inc. today to reserve a tax planning consultation.

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