IN THIS ISSUE
With a little planning now, a small business can save some tax dollars by
buying equipment. Under Section 179, the cost of tangible depreciable personal property
may be deducted for the taxable year in which it is placed in service, rather than
depreciated under the regular depreciation rules of Section 168.
Tangible personal property is property that meets the definition in
Section 1245(a)(3) (which includes most personal property) and is acquired by purchase for
use in the conduct of an active trade or business. Section 179 property does not include
any property described in Section 50(b) or air conditioning or heating units. For 1999,
the maximum amount allowed as a deduction is $19,000. (The deduction increases through a
phase-in schedule until it reaches $25,000 in 2003. See the chart on page 2.) Any
remaining cost after expensing is depreciated according to the normal applicable rules.
(Limitations on the deduction under Section 179 are modified for enterprise zone
The allowable amount of $19,000 must be reduced by the excess of the
cost of property placed in service during the taxable year that is above $200,000; i.e.,
once your total investment exceeds $200,000, the deduction is phased out
dollar-for-dollar. This lost deduction is permanent and cannot be carried forward. The
phase-out is intended to limit this expense deduction to smaller businesses, because
larger ones often place more than $200,000 worth of equipment in service in any given
The deduction is further limited to the amount of taxable income
derived from the taxpayer's active trade or business. The nondeductible portion is carried
forward indefinitely until it can be deducted.
PHASE-IN SCHEDULE FOR INCREASE
IN SECTION 179 DEDUCTION
For Taxable Years
2001 and 2002
2003 and thereafter
Making the election
An election for this deduction must be made on a taxpayer's original
return for the taxable year or on a timely filed amended return. The election must state
the property to which the election applies and the portion of the cost of each item that
is to be taken into account under the election. Once a taxpayer makes the election, it can
be revoked only with the IRS's consent; consent requests are subject to a user fee that
varies with the taxpayer's gross income.
Factors to consider
When looking at whether to use the Section 179 election, several
factors should be considered. First, the individual's or business's tax bracket should be
examined. If an individual is in a tax bracket higher than 15%, it is probably worth
considering. Below 15%, it may be better for an individual not to take the deduction,
especially if he or she expects to have higher income in the following years; depreciation
may be more valuable in later years to offset higher tax rates.
The second factor to consider is the timing of the purchase of the
property. If a business is going to be purchasing equipment consistently over several
years, it should consider spreading out the acquisitions so that they don't exceed the
$200,000 limitation in any given year.
A third factor to consider is the useful life of the asset. If some
assets purchased have a five-year life and others have a seven-year life, it is better to
take the Section 179 deduction on the longest-lived assets first.
You can also use Section 179 to prevent the mid-quarter rule under
Section 168 from taking effect. Generally, under this rule, if more than 40% of tangible
personal property that is placed in service throughout the year is placed in service
during the last quarter, then Section 168(d)(3) will apply to all the property placed in
service during the year and limit the depreciation otherwise available.
By using Section 179 on those assets that are acquired in the last
quarter, you may be able to prevent that mid-quarter convention from applying, because it
may reduce the basis of those assets below the 40% threshold.
If you decide to take a Section 179 deduction, you should be aware of the recapture
possibilities. If the Section 179 property is no longer used "Predominantly" in
a trade or business at any time before the end of the property's recovery period, then in
the taxable year in which the property is not so used, any benefit derived from expensing
the property must be recaptured. The amount to be recaptured will be treated as ordinary
income for the taxable year in which the property is no longer used predominantly in a
trade or business.
Property is treated as "not predominantly used" in a trade or
business if 50% or more of the use of such property during any taxable year within the
recapture period is for a use other than in a trade or business of the taxpayer.
Finally, the election may be worth while for small businesses simply
because of its convenience. If you have several items that cost a few hundred dollars
each, it's a lot easier for record keeping and calculation purposes to be able to expense
all of the items instead of writing them off over a period of time.
The Section 179 deduction can be advantageous if used properly and
considered before property purchases are made. If you would like to discuss whether a
Section 179 deduction might be worthwhile for your business, please contact our office.
Interest payment error
On June 11, 1999, the Treasury sent out more than 31,000 refunds that
included an incorrect interest amount of $9.55. This error was caused by a
computer-programming feature and was not related to any Y2K changes. The IRS discovered
the error before the refunds went out, but issued the refunds so that taxpayers would
receive the principal amount and some interest in a timely manner. Stopping the refunds to
correct them would have excessively delayed the payments.
This error affects around 31,000 business taxpayers who received
refunds with interest payments within a few days of June 11. Nearly 25,000 should have
received less interest than they did. The remaining taxpayers should have received larger
Because of the small amounts involved, the IRS will not seek repayments
from the taxpayers who received too much interest, The taxpayers who should have gotten
more interest will receive an additional payment for the remaining interest amount the
first week of July and an apology letter from the IRS explaining the matter. The IRS has
changed the computer software so that the problem will not recur.
IRS implements new power-of-attorney database
The IRS announced the implementation of a new, universally accessible,
power-of-attorney (POA) electronic database. This new database will allow taxpayers to
file their POA at any IRS service center, and the POA will be available to IRS employees
at any location. The new database was created to eliminate the need to send paper
documents from one IRS office to another and to eliminate repeat requests for faxes or
mailings from taxpayers or their representatives.
The IRS requires individuals to pay tax throughout the year as income
is earned. This can be done either through withholding taxes, which are taken out of an
individual's paycheck, or through estimated tax payments. Estimated tax payments are made
quarterly, but are generally not required if the individual taxpayer expects to owe less
than $1,000 in taxes after withholding, or had no tax liability in the prior 12-month
period. If the correct amount of estimated tax is not paid during the year, the IRS may
assess an underpayment penalty.
The amount that must be paid to the IRS can be determined using one of
three methods: prior-year method, current-year method, or annualization method. An
underpayment penalty won't be assessed if estimated payments and withholdings equal the
amount determined under one of the methods.
Prior-year method. Under this method, payments for 1999 must equal
the 1998 total tax liability, provided the taxpayer's 1998 adjusted gross income
$150,000 or less. For individuals with AGI over $150,000, estimated payments and
withholdings must equal 105% of the 1998 tax liability. (This amount will increase over
the next several years, to 106% for 2000 and 2001, 112% for 2002, and 110% for 2003.)
Current-year method. Payments under this method must equal 90% of
the 1999 tax liability.
Annualization method . Under this method, 90% of the 1999 tax
liability is based on annualization of actual year-to-date income for each quarter of
1999, This method is best used when an individual taxpayer's earnings fluctuate during the
year (For example, when there is an unexpected capital gain, or your income fluctuates
with the yearly business cycle.)
Choosing a method
If estimated taxes are overpaid, the taxpayer has made an
interest-free loan to the government. The goal in figuring estimated taxes is to pay the
minimum amount necessary to avoid underpayment penalties. Each method has its advantages
and disadvantages. For most individuals, the easiest way to calculate estimated tax
payments is by using the prior-year method. This may not be possible for someone in a
partnership or S corporation who may not have all of the prior year information in time
for the first estimated tax payment. The current year method is also easy to use but
requires the tax payer to be fairly accurate in figuring his or her tax liability, which
may not be possible for the first three-quarters of the year. This may pose a problem for
someone whose salary is partly or wholly comprised of commissions or year-end bonuses.
The penalty for underpaying estimated taxes is a nondeductible
interest charge on the underpayment amount. It is computed using the Federal short-term
interest rate plus three percentage points. The penalty is computed for each quarterly
installment; therefore, a penalty could be assessed even though a taxpayer made up the
underpayment in a later quarter. The penalty interest rate is determined during the first
month of each calendar quarter and becomes effective during the following quarter. The
penalty is assessed from the due date of the installment payment until either the date the
tax is paid, or the regular due date for filing the tax return, whichever is earlier.
Although withheld income tax payments are considered as being
paid equally throughout the year, this rule does not apply to quarterly estimated tax
payments. But if a taxpayer finds that previous est! mated payments were not sufficient,
he or she could avoid an underpayment penalty by adjusting withholdings for the remainder
of the year. The taxpayer would have to file an amended Form W-4 with his or her employer.
Calculating payments and due dates
When calculating the estimated tax payments, taxpayers must include all sources of
earned income, including income from pass through entities such as partnerships, S
corporations, and trusts. In addition, employment taxes for household employees and
self-employment taxes must be included in your withholdings or estimated tax payments.
Estimated payments are due April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15.
The IRS has announced that taxpayers who made a 1998 conversion of individual
retirement accounts (IRAs) into Roth IRAs, have until October 15, 1999 to
then back into traditional IRas, if they so choose. To be eligible, taxpayers must have
filed a 1998 tax return. This announcement is the latest in a series of guidelines and
announcements by the IRS on the subject. The IRS has concluded that the deadline for
re-conversion is extended by Treasury Regulation S. 301.9100-2(b), which provides for
automatic six-month extension for most tax elections. In order to receive the six-month
extension, a taxpayer must reflect the characterization election on his or her 1998 return
(Form 8606, Nondeductible IRAs). Taxpayers who did not reflect the
their original 1998 returns must file amended returns.
The IRS recently issued proposed regulations that will raise the threshold requiring
the use of the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) from $50,000 to $200,000,
beginning January 2000. This means that 91% of all businesses will be able to choose which
method to use to pay their taxes. Once the regulations are finalized, those businesses
that were previously required to use EFTPS but did not make more than $200,000 in
aggregate deposits last year will not be required to use EFTPS on January 1, 2000.
"Aggregate deposits" means that businesses must consider deposits for all types
of taxes, made during the year to see if they are required to use EFTPS. If a business
makes more than $200,000 in aggregate deposits for a calendar year, then it must use EFTPS
starting January 1 of the second succeeding calendar year. If a business does not make
more than $200,000 in aggregate deposits in a calendar year, it is not required to use
EFTPS, but still may do so.
In addition, the IRS will continue to waive penalties for smaller
businesses required to use EFTPS that make timely deposits using paper deposit coupons.
The waiver is effective from July 1 through December 31, 1999.
Employees who work for tips. If you received $20 or more in tips during August, report
then to your employer. You can use Form 4070.
Individuals. Make a payment of your 1999 estimated tax if you are not paying your income
tax for the year through withholding or will not pay enough tax that way). Use form
1040-ES. This is the third installment of estimated income tax for 1999.
Corporations. File a 1998 calendar-year income tax return (Form 1120 or
1120-A) and pay any tax due. This due date applies only if you timely requested an
automatic six-month extension. Deposit the third installment of estimated income tax for
Employers. For Social Security, Medicare, withheld income tax, and
non-payroll withholding, deposit the tax for payments in August if the monthly deposit rule
Employees who work for tips. If you received $20 or more in tips during September, report
then to your employer. You can use Form 4070.
Individuals. If you were given an additional two-month extension on your 1998 income tax
return, file the return and pay any tax due.
Partnerships. File a 1998 calendar-year return (Form 1065). This due date
applies only if you were given an additional three-month extension. Provide each partner
with a copy of Schedule K-1 (Form 1065), or a substitute K-1.
Employers. For Social Security, Medicare, withheld income tax, and
non-payroll withholding, deposit the tax for payments in September if the monthly deposit
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