American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009 extends/creates business tax breaks

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009 (ARRTA) provides more than $75 billion worth of tax benefits for business for 2009 and 2010, in addition to numerous individual tax breaks. This article highlights some of the valuable tax breaks for businesses in the new law.

Bonus Depreciation. The ARRTA extends bonus depreciation under the 2008 Economic Stimulus Act, allowing businesses to immediately write-off an additional 50-percent of the cost of qualifying depreciable property placed in service before 2010. The additional 50-percent first-year bonus depreciation applies retroactively to capital expenses incurred on or after January 1, 2009. Qualified property includes most types of new property, including equipment, computers, tractors, wind turbines and solar panels.

The ARRTA also extends through 2010 additional first-year bonus depreciation for property with a recovery period of 10 years or longer, for transportation property (for example, tangible personal property used to transport people or property, and for certain aircraft).

Note. Effective January 1, 2009, the ARRTA law also increases the regular dollar caps for new passenger vehicles placed in service after 2008 and before 2010 by $8,000 when bonus depreciation is claimed.

Code Sec. 179 Expensing. For 2009, the ARRTA extends the Code Sec. 179 expensing amounts, which had been increased by the 2008 Economic Stimulus Act. For 2009, the Code Sec. 179 expensing amount is $250,000 and the investment ceiling is $800,000.

Five-Year NOL Carryback. The ARRTA allows certain small businesses to elect a five-year carryback of net operating losses (NOLs) arising in 2008. Only qualified small businesses with average gross receipts of $15 million or less qualify for the longer carryback. Eligible businesses can elect to carryback 2008 NOLs three, four or five years. The new carryback treatment applies only to NOLs arising in tax years beginning or ending in 2008. Quick refunds apply if your business qualifies.

AMT/R&D Credits Election. Through 2009, the ARRTA temporarily extends the ability of businesses to accelerate the recognition of a portion of their accumulated AMT and research and development (R&D) credits instead of taking bonus depreciation. In effect, this allows an immediate cash refund for these credits.

Work Opportunity Tax Credit. Businesses can claim a Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) generally equal to 40 percent of the first $6,000 of wages paid to employees who are in one of nine targeted groups. The ARRTA adds (1) unemployed veterans and (2) disconnected youth to the list of targeted groups. The new categories apply to individuals who are hired and begin work in 2009 or 2010.

Cancellation of Debt Income. Under the ARRTA, eligible businesses can make an (irrevocable) election to recognize certain cancellation of debt income (CODI) ratably over a five-year period, beginning in 2014. The election applies to certain types of business debt repurchased by the business during 2009 and 2010.

S Corp Built-In Gain Period. Current law provides that if a C corporation converts to an S corporation the conversion is not a taxable event. However, the S corporation usually must hold its assets for 10 years after the conversion in order to avoid being taxed on any built-in gains that existed at the time of the conversion. For S corp sales of their C corp assets  in 2009 and 2010, however, the ARRTA temporarily shortens the holding period, from 10 to seven years, for sales of assets subject to the built-in gains tax imposed after such a conversion.

Qualified Small Business Stock. Pre-ARRTA law allowed noncorporate investors to exclude 50 percent of the gain from the sale of certain qualified small business stock (QSBS) held for more than five years. The ARRTA increases the exclusion to 75 percent for QSBS acquired after February 17, 2009 and before 2011. A "qualified small business" is one that does not have more than $50 million in assets and conducts an active trade or business.

Estimated Tax Payments. For individual taxpayers with income from small businesses, the ARRTA temporarily reduces 2009 required estimated tax payments for certain small businesses. Under the new law, 2009 quarterly estimated tax payments may now be based on 90 percent - instead of 100 percent - of the taxpayer's 2008 returns. For purposes of the new provision, a "small business" is one that does not employ more than an average of 500 people, and the individual's adjusted gross income is less than $500,000. The individual also must certify that at least 50 percent of the gross income shown on his or her return for the preceding tax year was income from a "small trade or business."

Energy Incentives. A number of the energy tax incentives in the ARRTA are targeted to businesses. The ARRTA:

  • Extends and modifies the Code Sec. 45 renewable production tax credit.
  • Expands the Code Sec. 48 energy investment credit to include qualified small wind energy property.
  • Allows the Code Sec. 48 investment tax credit to be claimed in lieu of the Code Sec. 45 production tax credit.
  • Removes the individual dollar limits on certain energy tax credits for qualified small wind energy property, qualified solar water heating property, and qualified geothermal heat pumps.

If you have any questions about the business incentives in the ARRTA, please contact our office.