Don’t be in a rush to get your business taxes filed

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As if filing personal income taxes weren’t tough enough, limited liability corporation and other partnership returns also are due April 15.

But if the thought of more Internal Revenue Service forms and tables, rules and regulations, puts you in a tizzy, it’s actually safe to relax and take the time to inhale slowly and deeply. The IRS welcomes properly filed extension requests, as long as they include a payment of estimated taxes owed.

And if your business does need an extension, you’re in good company. Of the 10 million businesses filing tax returns, about half file for extensions, said Ryan Thompson, chief executive officer of FileLater, an IRS-authorized e-file provider.

With all the new or revised tax laws, “it’s an opportune time for people to really scrutinize their businesses and get every deduction they can,” he said.

An extension gives partnerships and LLCs until Sept. 15 to file.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 includes both extensions and expansions of many tax provisions that benefit businesses.

The bonus depreciation provision allows taxpayers to deduct 50 percent of the purchase price of qualifying property, said Tad Goodenbour, a partner at BKD LLP. The two main requirements are that the equipment must be for the taxpayer’s original use and it must be depreciable over 20 years or less – which includes “almost all machinery and equipment, including off-the-shelf computer software.”

A business can have a loss and still take the bonus depreciation deduction, and there is not a dollar limit on purchases of qualifying property.

For instance, if someone purchases a $10,000 piece of equipment with a seven-year depreciation life, under the new rules, $5,000 can be deducted the first year, in addition to the regular depreciation of about $715 on the other half of the purchase price.

This is a substantially higher deduction than the $1,429 allowable for the same $10,000 piece of equipment under the old rules.

“This really is a big deal,” Goodenbour said. “We have clients who will place $20 million in fixed assets in service this year. If they are a taxable entity, this can put them into a loss for the year” – and they can still take the deduction.

Another provision, Section 179, “makes a big difference to people with equipment-intensive businesses,” he said. “A lot of the individual provisions are nickel and dime – but this one is substantial.”

It allows a business to deduct 100 percent of the purchase price of fixed assets, but, of course, there is a caveat. “There must be net income generated by the trade or business associated with the asset acquired – you cannot create or increase a loss in your business by taking the 179 deduction,” Goodenbour said.

The primary limitation is a $250,000 maximum amount per year, which starts phasing out after $800,000 in equipment purchases during the year.

In other words, if a business has $300,000 in taxable income, the full $250,000 could be deducted.

Businesses such as casinos, heavy equipment operators, some restaurants and any company that buys larger depreciable fixed assets, should be helped by Section 179, Goodenbour said.

Another provision, one that will benefit C corporations, is that taxable losses for 2009 can be carried back five years, instead of two years.

Because of the economy, many businesses will have losses during 2009.

“The carry back reduces taxable income in prior years,” Goodenbour said. “And because of the progressive nature of tax rates – that refund will be of the higher tax rates paid.”

And, finally, there is a debt forgiveness provision.

“They did actually throw a bone in here,” Goodenbour said. “This provision is going to have a lot more relevance than many others. In certain circumstances – in which a borrower re-acquires its debt at a discount – any cancellation of indebtedness income can now be spread out over a 10-year time period.”

This is a substantial benefit for the borrower.

“Before this provision, a business owner could avoid the wrath of the bank and foreclosure – but what good did it do, if they didn’t have the money to pay the IRS?” Goodenbour asked.

In light of these new provisions, filing an extension might give owners/partners the opportunity to further research which provisions will be most beneficial to their company.

“There’s a misconception that it’s bad,” Thompson said, “but the IRS makes it very easy for people to take advantage of filing an extension.”