Archive for Start Up

Thinking about Buying a Business? Your Opportunities for Tax Deductions Have Already Begun!

Are you aware of business start-up deductions? If you’re not, you should find out right away! You don’t want to miss out on these tax-deductible activities that are only valid when you’re starting a new business. In fact, you don’t have to start your own business; you can get these tax benefits from simply buying a business. Fortunately, this article deals you in on the details.

It Pays to Plan

Before you even purchase your new business, you can start keeping track of your deductible expenses. That’s right, you are eligible for deductions related to merely thinking about your soon-to-be business. Here’s an example. Let’s say you invite a friend to dinner because she purchased her business only a few years ago, and you’d like to find out more about what goes into starting a newly purchased company. That dinner is deductible because you have a business purpose for the expense—you are seeking necessary information for your venture. These expenses are called “start-up expenses”.

Whether you create or buy a business, you will by necessity go through an investigatory phase. If you don’t do this, you may want to reconsider going into business for yourself! However, the rules about how deductions work are a little different in each situation, so we’ll stay focused on the process for purchasing an existing company.

Basically, you are going to incur expenses while you analyze your options and make a decision about what kind of (and then which) business to buy. That is the extent of the investigatory phase. After that, start-up expenses stop, and you begin tracking business expenses.

Here’s a breakdown of the steps and what expenses you may be looking at:

  • Investigating Possible Businesses—First of all, let’s make clear that when we say “buy a business”, we are talking about actually purchasing an active business, not buying corporate stock. If during this period, you spend $41,000 to analyze and review your options, you can begin writing off those expenses the day the escrow closes on your purchase. You get a $5,000 write-off on the first day, and $200 each month after for the 180 months.[1]
  • Identifying Your Prospective Business—In order to take advantage of the expenses for your investigatory phase, you must identify the business you plan to purchase. If after investigating the possibilities, you do not identify a target business, you will not be eligible for any deductions. At the point when you identify your target business, your investigative expenses stop. In the event that you identify a target business but do not end up buying it, you are still eligible for acquisition and facilitative costs, but not the investigative costs.
  • Buying the Business—Once you have identified the business and move forward with purchase, any additional expenses are considered capitalization rather than start-up costs. These are costs that you cannot benefit from until you later sell or leave your business. The IRS has what is called a “bright-line rule” regarding the date your research of possible businesses ends and acquisition activities begin.[2] It is either 1) the date of your letter of intent (or similar documentation), or 2) the date that a binding written contract is executed between you and the target business (unless board approval is required, in which case it’s the date terms are approved by the board or its authorized committee). The IRS will go with whichever of these two dates is earlier.[3]

Take a look at that last bit about the bright-line rule. That means that if you hire an accounting firm, for instance, to investigate your target company, the firm may continue to provide services to you after you submit a letter of intent. The accounting firm will make a financial analysis in the investigatory phase, but it also could review the target company’s books and records after that point. Only the services provided before submission of your letter of intent count as start-up costs.[4] The additional services are capital costs.

Of course, the IRS never makes things easy, so there is an exception to the above bright-line rule. It wouldn’t be tax law if there weren’t, right? You see, some expenses are inherently facilitative, meaning they cannot be counted as investigatory expenses. What about the bright-line date, you may say. It doesn’t matter. Facilitative expenses are capital costs regardless of the date you incurred them. Here are some examples that are inherently facilitative to a purchase:[5]

  • Appraisal costs
  • The cost of a formal written evaluation of the transaction
  • The cost to have a purchase agreement prepared
  • Any costs necessary to obtain shareholder approval
  • Costs for negotiating the transaction
  • Costs for structuring the transaction
  • Any costs for conveying property, such as title registration or transfer taxes

When Corporations Are Involved

Things are always a little trickier when corporations are the entities making the transaction. You may find yourself in one or both of the following situations: you could be purchasing a corporation, and/or your corporation may be the buyer. Let’s look at a few scenarios.

  • You Only Buy Common Stock—If you take over a corporation through common stock, any investigatory expenses are not deductible. This is because you have gained an investment rather than an actual business or trade interest.[6]
  • You Buy Stock Plus Assets—If stock purchase is included in the process to fully take over a corporation, that is a different matter. When you acquire a business’s assets, even when stock is also exchanged, you are eligible for start-up deductions and amortization.
  • Your Corporation Is the AcquirerUnlike the sole proprietor, who claims start-up expenses on the Schedule C, an S or C corporation will claim these expenses on the corporate tax return. Always keep in mind that your corporation is a separate entity from you. Do not pay any of the costs incurred by your corporation. If you do, make sure the corporation reimburses you. Doing otherwise will cause headaches with your taxes.
  • You Form the New Business as CorporationWhen you do this, you incur organization expenses for setting up your company’s entity structure. This can include fees paid to incorporate, legal services required to set up the corporation, accounting services, and expenses related to organizational meetings for directors or stockholders. These costs are separate from investigatory costs and capitalization costs.[7] The good news is that they can be amortized just like start-up expenses. You claim up to $5,000 in the first year and amortize the remainder over 180 months.[8]

Now you know what to do as far as acquiring your business, but what if the business fails or is sold before you finish seeing the full benefits of amortization? No worries. For sole proprietors, you deduct the remaining (unamortized) costs as a business loss.[9] For corporations, both the unamortized start-up and organization costs are deducted on the corporation’s final tax return.[10]

Tax law is not written to slow down businesses, despite the fact that it can get complicated. On the contrary, legislators know that the opening of new businesses benefits the whole economy. That’s why your able to write-off expenses like the ones discussed here. Take advantage of it! The benefits are available so that you and your business can succeed.

  1. IRC Section 195(b).
  2. TD 9107.
  3. Reg. Section 1.263(a)-5(e).
  4. Reg. Section 1.263(a)-5(e)
  5. Reg. Section 1.263(a)-4(e)(2).
  6. H. R. Rep. No. 1278, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. 3, 9-13 (1980).
  7. Reg. Section 1.248-1(b)(2).
  8. Reg. Section 1.248-1T(a).
  9. IRC Section 195(b)(2).
  10. Liquidating Co., 33 BTA 1173.

How to Protect Your New Business Investment and Deduct It from Income Taxes

Buying a business is an exciting time. You’re sure to feel the promise of new success; however, don’t let that rush of adrenaline get the best of you. When you invest in a business, remember to keep your head in order to protect your investment.

How You Buy

You have two primary options for buying a business. The simplest way is to just buy all of the company’s stock. If you’re interested in a corporation, all you have to do is purchase 100% of the current owner’s stock. Presto! You now own the corporation.

The other option is to purchase the company’s assets, which can be more complicated. If the business you’re interested in is a sole proprietorship or a single-member LLC (that is taxed as a proprietorship), then stocks are not an option; you will buy assets[1]. However, you can also buy assets when purchasing a corporation. Hint: See the tips below for why you may want to do this.

The big advantage to an asset purchase is that the money you invest increases the basis of the individual assets. What this means for you is that you can depreciate them and eventually recover the investment cost. Any premium you pay that’s in excess of the assets’ value can also be deducted[2].

Your Purchase Affects Your Taxes

One thing to keep in mind is that you usually have multiple options for purchasing. And, each decision you make regarding your business will affect your taxes. So, make sure you understand these two things:

  • Making an Asset Purchase—If you purchase a corporation through stocks, your investment money goes towards basis in the stock. This means you don’t own the company’s assets; the corporation does. However, this is not the best situation for you because you cannot depreciate the stock. The only tax benefit you will get from stock is when you sell it. Furthermore, the corporation’s assets will already have a depreciation schedule.
  • Making Use of Your Depreciation—What you can do instead, to help recover the cost of your investment, is make a hybrid purchase[3]. However, a hybrid purchase is a complicated process, and you will need your tax advisor and an attorney to assist you along the way. Basically, a corporation you already own, or a corporation you form, buys the stock of an S corporation[4]. The difference is you will then treat the purchase like an asset purchase for tax purposes. You will set up the basis of the assets, as normal.

After purchasing the S corporation’s stock, you’ll have to sign an IRS Form 8023[5]. Just keep in mind that all stockholders will need to sign the form[6]. This includes those of the buyer, the seller, and (if you live in a state with community property laws) the stockholders’ spouses.

Issues When Purchasing Stocks

A primary concern when purchasing stocks is protecting yourself from liability, both future and past. If you go the stock purchase route, you could be liable for any problems caused by the previous owner. That’s right—you just bought the history of the company. That means any past grievances brought up by employees and any product issues brought up by consumers can be stacked up against you, and the victims have a right to sue you.

To avoid these situations, make sure you address them in your stock purchase contract. The seller should agree to pay all past debts and taxes. Also, make sure the seller includes language to indemnify you from lawsuits that arise from the time period of previous ownership. Of course, this does not stop people from suing you. They still can. What the contract ensures is that you can then get the previous owner to pay any costs incurred under this liability.

Things to Consider When Purchasing Assets

When you purchase assets, it means you are buying each bit of the company separately. You buy the name, the property, the inventory, etc. During this process, you may have to deal with third parties, which can be a headache. Third party transactions can also end up costing you additional money. Make sure you’re away of the details, including whether you will have to substitute your name on future documents, before signing the final contract.

On a positive note, asset purchase differs from buying stock in that you are free from past liabilities of the business. You buy the business’s parts, not the entity itself. The benefit of this is that any issues arising from past ownership stay with the previous owner; they are not your responsibility. Just play it smart; antifraud laws can protect creditors. You may be at risk for accepting liability in the following cases[7]:

  • You specifically agree to take on past liabilities;
  • The sale is made as a “de facto” merger;
  • Your official status is a “continuation” of the previous owner’s business;
  • The purpose of the sale is to evade liability;
  • The product you manufacture is the same as the seller did.

If one of these situations applies, be sure to made release of liabilities a part of the contract. Just as with a stock purchase, the seller should agree to indemnify you from lawsuits and pay accumulated debts.

Understanding the Seller’s Incentives

Of course, your business purchase is not going to be beneficial only to you. If that were the case, the seller would not go through with the deal. The best transactions are those that are mutually beneficial. So, what exactly is the seller looking for?

Capital Gain

Sellers are looking to make capital gains rather than ordinary gains (those from the operation of the business). The capital gains are taxed at a lower rate, which means the seller benefits when the sale can be classified as such[8]. With a sale of assets, the seller ends up with a mix of gains from income and capital (including losses).

This doesn’t mean a seller won’t negotiate with you on the type of sale, but they will probably raise the price to cover their losses. One situation in which the seller’s return may be negatively affected is the hybrid corporation sale method. If you find yourself in the position of seller, you should check with your attorney and your tax advisor about what tax rates will apply (especially if you face a gains tax from previously operating as a C corporation[9]).

Remember that with the new Obamacare tax (3.8 percent on net investment income), your stock and asset sales will be taxed. If you operate as a C corporation, you cannot avoid this. As an S corporation, you may be able to reduce this tax in the case that the income was active rather than passive[10].

Protection from Future Liability

Just as you want to protect yourself from past liability, the seller wants to be protected from future liability at the hands of your ownership. For this reason, the stock purchase is usually the preferred method for a seller. It means you have taken over responsibility for the company as an entity.

Whether buying or selling, consider the benefits of each purchase type. Gaining an understanding of the options helps to protect your investments and protect you from undue liability. Remember, always have a professional look over the contracts with you.

  1. See Rev. Rul. 99-5, Situation 1 for LLCs.
  2. The amount is generally considered a goodwill amount, which you amortize over 15 years. IRC Section 197(a); (d)(1).
  3. IRC Section 338(h)(10). PLR 200649015. Also see Reg. Section 1.338(h)(10)-1(c)(2).
  4. Reg. Section 1.338(h)(10)-1(c)(1); (d).
  5. Form 8023, Elections Under Section 338 for Corporations Making Qualified Stock Purchases, Rev. February 2006.
  6. Reg. Section 1.338(h)(10)-1(c)(3).
  7. CCA 200847001; Dayton v Peck, Stow and Wilcox Co., 739 F.2d 690, 692 (1st Cir. 1989).
  8. Reg. Section 1.338(h)(10)-1(d).
  9. See this article on built-in gains.
  10. Prop. Reg. Section 1.1411-7(a)(1).