Tax planning for year-end 2007 presents new opportunities and

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Tax planning for year-end 2007 presents new opportunities and Powered By Docstoc
					Tax planning for year-end 2007 presents new opportunities and challenges for small business taxpayers to reduce or defer federal income tax liability. While traditional planning techniques remain fundamentally important this year, new opportunities born from recent legislation and changes in the tax laws provide significant prospects for saving or deferring taxes in 2007 and the expiration of many popular tax incentives may complicate planning for your business. This letter discusses important year end tax planning strategies -- from the tried and true techniques to new opportunities -- that can operate to reduce the tax burden for your small business. BUSINESS PLANNING BASICS Tax planning strategies do not come in a one-business-fits-all package. Tax planning is as unique and varied as today's businesses and, while certain traditional planning opportunities can help businesses across the board minimize or defer taxes, every plan must account for the particular needs and circumstances of the business. Three factors that will affect year-end planning for every business, including yours, are the company's: business structure, accounting method, and anticipated profits and losses for 2007 and 2008. Business structure The structure of your business determines how business income will be taxed. While C corporations are subject to two levels of tax, income, losses, deductions, and credits of S- corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies (LLCs) are passed through to the owners and reported on their individual income tax returns. Therefore, not only is the structure of the business important, but with pass-through entities, their owners' individual tax situation is particularly significant in year-end tax planning. Accounting method The accounting method used by your business is a factor that impacts year-end tax planning strategies. Your accounting method is important to tax planning because it affects your ability to time and shift income between 2007 and 2008. Whether your business operates on a cash or accrual basis will determine when income must be recognized for tax purposes and when expenses are deductible. Comment. Many small businesses and sole proprietors operate on a cash basis. Cash-basis taxpayers recognize and report income when they actually or constructively receive cash or its equivalent (i.e., checks, notes, letters of credit, forgiveness of debt), and take deductions when expenses are actually paid or transferred, regardless of when the cost was incurred. For accrual-basis taxpayers, the right to receive income, rather than actual receipt, determines the year of inclusion in income. Expenses are deductible in the year in which all events have occurred to establish the liability and the amount of the item can be ascertained with reasonable certainty. Cash-basis businesses that anticipate being in the same or higher tax bracket in 2007 than 2008 can smooth out their taxable income by

deferring income to 2008 and accelerating deductions this year. To push income into 2008, cash-basis businesses can delay billing clients or customers (for example, wait until mid-January) for services and products so that payment is not received until 2008. Alternatively, if you anticipate your business's taxable income to be higher in 2008, you may want to accelerate income in 2007 and defer deductions until next year. Accrual-method businesses can defer income by delaying the shipment of products or provision of services until the beginning of the 2008 tax year. DEDUCTIONS Deduction planning is an integral aspect of year-end business tax planning. There are many important deductions beyond the Code Section 162 deduction for ordinary and necessary business expenses that may lower a small business's tax liability. Equipment expensing Most small businesses are eligible for the Code Section 179 deduction, a generous and lucrative tax break that enables businesses (especially capital intensive businesses) to immediately deduct up to $125,000 in 2007 for equipment purchases that otherwise would have to be depreciated over a number of years. (The 2007 Small Business Tax Act increased the base limit from $112,000 to $125,000 for 2007.) To qualify for the deduction, equipment must be used more than 50 percent for business purposes and must be in use by December 31, 2007. The deduction applies to new and used equipment, as well as computer and software purchases. Property also eligible for Code Section 179 expensing includes tangible recovery property that is Code Section 1245 property (i.e., most depreciable property other than buildings and land improvements). If feasible, consider maximizing the deduction by using the expensing deduction for property with the longest recovery period. However, the Code Section 179 deduction is essentially a "use it or lose" tax break: any unused Code Section 179 allowance can not be rolled over into the next year. Comment. A business cannot expense under Code Section 179 more than the amount of taxable income and the amount of available expensing from all its active trade and businesses. Thus, the Code Section 179 deduction is not allowed for small business taxpayers that do not have taxable income from any trade or business in the year in which the property is placed in service. (But the amount of the deduction disallowed for this reason can be carried forward to a non-loss year.) However, the expense deduction is not barred simply because the specific business in which the equipment is used does not produce any net income in that particular year; the taxpayer's aggregate net income from all trades and businesses is considered. Wages, salaries, tips, and other types of compensation received by employees are taken into consideration for purposes of the taxable income limit.

If your business is considering additional equipment purchases but is close to reaching the $125,000 expensing limit this year, consider postponing additional purchases until 2008, if possible. In 2008, you can expense $128,000 for equipment purchases. The Code Section 179 deduction is subject to an investment limitation. It begins to phase-out by the amount by which qualifying property placed in service during the tax year exceeds $500,000. (This amount had been $450,000, but the 2007 Small Business Tax Act retroactively raised the investment limitation for tax years beginning in 2007.) This means that, for 2007, the maximum amount that you can expense under Code Section 179 is reduced dollar-for-dollar for eligible property placed in service during the tax year in excess of $500,000. For tax years beginning in 2008, the investment limitation increases to $510,000. Manufacturing deduction The Code Section 199 deduction for qualifying domestic production activities benefits a broad array of businesses, including construction, engineering, architecture, and farming. For 2007, the deduction generally equals six percent of the lesser of (1) qualified production activities income for the tax year, or (2) taxable income that does not take the deduction into account for the tax year. However, the deduction cannot exceed 50 percent of W-2 wages allocable to domestic gross receipts. The deduction applies for both regular and alternative minimum tax (AMT) liability. Code Section 199 rules are extremely complex and calculating the deduction is complicated as taxpayers must make numerous allocations. Our office can help you determine the deduction you may be entitled to under Code Section 199. Compensation and bonuses If your company operates a qualified retirement plan, consider maximizing 2007 contributions to the plan since the contributions are tax deductible in the year that they are made to the plan. Moreover, paying year-end bonuses in January or February can create a significant compensation-based business deduction for a calendar-year, accrual-basis corporation. For example, such businesses can deduct in 2007 a bonus paid in 2008, as long as the obligation is paid within two and one-half months of the close of 2007. Calendar-year, accrual-basis businesses can take a deduction in 2007 for bonuses not actually paid to employees until 2008 as long as (1) the employee does not own more than 50 percent in value of the business's stock, (2) the bonus is properly accrued on the company's books before the end of 2007, and (3) the bonus is paid within the first two and one-half months of 2008. To further complicate planning for this year end, new nonqualified deferred compensation rules under new Code Section 409A kick in on January 1, 2008. These rules take in a broad array of compensation packages and have been a surprise to many businesses. Although the IRS has listened to the outcry of complaints and will allow retroactive compliance with the written-compensation-plan requirements throughout 2008, it is insisting that operational compliance start as originally

planned on January 1, 2008. Penalties for noncompliance are substantial, including the immediate acceleration of deferred compensation into the current year for tax purposes, whether or not the compensation is actually paid out early. Loss deductions Business losses sustained during the tax year can be deducted if your business has not been compensated by insurance or otherwise. For passthrough entities such as S corporations, LLCs, and partnerships, losses will be passed through and deducted on the owners' personal income tax returns. Loss deductions can be taken for:      Bad debts; Casualty and theft losses; Capital losses; Losses on the sale of business assets; and Net operating losses.

Start-up costs If you just launched your business in 2007 and you incurred expenses before the business actually began operating (start-up costs), you may be able to deduct these expenses. As long as the business is up and running by the end of 2007, you can elect to currently deduct up to $5,000 of start-up expenses. Once start-up costs exceed $50,000, the $5,000 limit is reduced dollar for dollar. The remainder of the costs must be deducted ratably over a 180-month period. EXTENDED INCENTIVES Businesses should examine whether they can benefit from certain popular tax incentives that were set to expire in 2007, but have been extended and enhanced under the 2007 Small Business Tax Act, including the:     Work Opportunity Tax Credit; FICA Tip Credit; Qualified Zone Academy Bond Credit; and Certain energy credits and deductions.

EXPIRING TAX BREAKS Unless Congress extends them, this year will be the last chance for businesses to take advantage of certain tax breaks set to expire in 2007, such:  Qualified leasehold and restaurant improvements. For property placed in service before 2008, qualified leasehold improvements and qualified restaurant property can be deducted over a 15-year period (in lieu of 39 years) using the straight-line depreciation method.

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Qualified environmental remediation costs. Taxpayers can elect to treat qualified environmental remediation expenses paid or incurred before 2008, that would otherwise be chargeable to a capital account, as deductible in the year paid or incurred. Contributions of food, books, or computer technology. Businesses may take an enhanced deduction for contributions of food and books through 2007. C corporations may also take an enhanced deduction for contributions of computer technology or equipment donated to schools or libraries before 2008. Research credit. The incremental research credit may be claimed for increases in business-related, qualified research expenditures and for increases in payments to universities and other qualified organizations for basic research. Research funded by a person other than the taxpayer is not eligible for the credit. The credit may not be claimed for expenses paid or incurred after December 31, 2007, but credits from previous years may be carried forward.

AMT PLANNING The alternative minimum tax (AMT) is not a challenge reserved solely for individual taxpayers; it may affect your small business as well. While it is anticipated that Congress will enact another round of temporary AMT relief before year's end, whether such relief will come in the form of another "patch" or more comprehensive reform is uncertain. The 2007 AMT exemption amount for corporations is $40,000, subject to an income-based phase-out. The AMT income tax rate for businesses is a flat 20 percent rate. The AMT method requires calculation of alternative minimum taxable income (AMTI), which is determined by adjusting the corporation's regular taxable income by certain adjustments, preference items, and an exemption amount. The AMTI is multiplied by 20 percent to determine the tentative minimum tax. The AMT equals the excess, if any, of the tentative minimum tax over the regular tax for the tax year. The AMT is reduced by AMT foreign tax credits. Small corporations that meet an annual average gross receipts test (GRT) under Code Sec. 55(e) are exempt from the AMT. To qualify under the GRT, a corporation's average annual gross receipts for all threetax-year periods beginning after 1993 and ending before the current year can not exceed $7.5 million. Computing the AMT is complicated and time-consuming. For help determining your business's potential AMT liability, please call our office today. CALL US Most tax laws are based on the calendar year. Once December 31 passes, the opportunities to reduce your business's income taxes for the year significantly diminish. Virtually every business can benefit from a year-end tax plan. Please call our offices early enough to receive assistance in customizing a plan for your business.