Changing Your Accounting Method
A taxpayer changing its method of accounting must either request advance IRS consent or apply for automatic IRS consent on Form 3115, Application for Change in Accounting Method, to make the change. Automatic consent is more favorable because the taxpayer can request the change on its return filed after the year it makes the change. A taxpayer requesting automatic consent must submit Form 3115 by the due date of the return for the year of the change. Recent IRS actions indicate that a taxpayer who fails to make a timely request for a change of accounting method may qualify for an extension of time to request the change.
In 2013, the IRS issued “repair regs” that determine whether a taxpayer must capitalize or can deduct its costs related to the use of tangible property. To take advantage of the treatment provided in the regs, taxpayers often had to change their accounting methods. The IRS provided automatic consent for taxpayers to change their methods of accounting to comply with the repair regs.
If a taxpayer fails to make a “regulatory” election on time, the IRS has discretion to grant an extension of time for making the election. A regulatory election is the deadline established by the IRS in regulations or other guidance, in contrast to an election whose deadline is set by statute. A taxpayer must submit a private letter request asking for an IRS ruling that grants relief. The IRS will grant relief only if it is satisfied that the taxpayer acted reasonably and in good faith when it failed to make a timely election, and that granting an extension will not prejudice the government.
The IRS has granted extensions of time to several taxpayers who missed the deadline for requesting automatic IRS consent to change a method of accounting under the repair regs. The IRS gave the taxpayer an additional 60 days (after the IRS issued the favorable letter ruling) to make the election.
In one sample ruling request, the taxpayer (a corporation) was required to submit the original of Form 3115 with its timely income tax return filed for the year of change, and to provide a copy of the Form 3115 to the IRS in Ogden, Utah. The taxpayer’s return preparer timely e-filed the taxpayer’s Form 1120, prepared Form 3115, and submitted a copy of the form to Ogden. However, the preparer inadvertently failed to scan the Form 3115 and include it with the taxpayer’s return. The preparer discovered the omission and the taxpayer applied for an extension. The IRS granted the taxpayer an additional 60 days to elect the change of accounting method permitted under the repair regs.