Extenders Bill on the Way Signed by President Obama

07 Jan

The bill, titled the “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015,” makes some of the extended provisions permanent while extending others only for two years. Among the provisions included in the PATH bill are a number of items that may be of direct interest to NSA members. These provisions include the following sections:

Extension and modification of increased expensing limitations and treatment of certain real property as section 179 property.
The provision permanently extends the small business expensing limitation and phase-out amounts in effect from 2010 to 2014 ($500,000 and $2 million, respectively). These amounts currently are $25,000 and $200,000, respectively. The special rules that allow expensing for computer software and qualified real property (qualified leasehold improvement property, qualified restaurant property, and qualified retail improvement property) also are permanently extended. The provision modifies the expensing limitation by indexing both the $500,000 and $2 million limits for inflation beginning in 2016 and by treating air conditioning and heating units placed in service in tax years beginning after 2015 as eligible for expensing. The provision further modifies the expensing limitation with respect to qualified real property by eliminating the $250,000 cap beginning in 2016.

Extension of 15-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant buildings and improvements, and qualified retail improvements.
The provision permanently extends the 15-year recovery period for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant property, and qualified retail improvement property.

Extension of deduction of State and local general sales taxes.
The provision permanently extends the option to claim an itemized deduction for State and local general sales taxes in lieu of an itemized deduction for State and local income taxes. The taxpayer may either deduct the actual amount of sales tax paid in the tax year, or alternatively, deduct an amount prescribed by the Internal Revenue Service.

Extension and modification of research credit.
The Provision permanently extends the research and development (R&D) Tax credit. Additionally, beginning in 2016 eligible small businesses ($50 million or less in gross receipts) may claim the credit against alternative minimum tax (AMT) liability, and the credit can be utilized by certain small businesses against the employer’s payroll tax (i.e., FICA) liability.

Safe harbor for de minimis errors on information returns and payee statements.
The provision establishes a safe harbor from penalties for the failure to file correct information returns and for failure to furnish correct payee statements by providing that if the error is $100 or less ($25 or less in the case of errors involving tax withholding), the issuer of the information return is not required to file a corrected return and no penalty is imposed. A recipient of such a return (e.g., an employee who receives a Form W-2) can elect to have a 9 corrected return issued to them and filed with the IRS. The provision is effective for returns and statements required to be filed after December 31, 2016.

Modification of filing dates of returns and statements relating to employee wage information and non-employee compensation to improve compliance.
The provision requires forms W-2, W-3, and returns or statements to report non-employee compensation (e.g., Form 1099-MISC), to be filed on or before January 31 of the year following the calendar year to which such returns relate. The provision also provides additional time for the IRS to review refund claims based on the earned income tax credit and the refundable portion of the child tax credit in order to reduce fraud and improper payments. The provision is effective for returns and Statements relating to calendar years after the date of enactment (e.g., filed in 2017).

Increase the penalty applicable to paid tax preparers who engage in willful or reckless conduct.
The provision expands the penalty for tax preparers who engage in willful or reckless conduct, which is currently the greater of $5,000 or 50 percent of the preparer’s income with respect to the return, by increasing the 50 percent amount to 75 percent. The provision applies to returns prepared for tax years ending after the date of enactment.

Clarification of enrolled agent credentials.
The provision permits enrolled agents approved by the IRS to use the designation “enrolled agent,” “EA,” or “E.A.” The provision is effective on the date of enactment.