New-for-2016 Enhancements to Certain Tax Incentives
Passage of the “Tax Extenders” undeniably provided one of the major headlines – and tax benefits – to come out of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act), signed into law on December 18, 2015. Although these tax extenders (over 50 of them in all) were largely made retroactive to January 1, 2015, valuable enhancements to some of these tax benefits were not made retroactive. Rather, these enhancements were made effective only starting January 1, 2016. As a result, individuals and businesses alike should treat these enhancements as brand-new tax breaks, taking a close look at whether one or several of them may apply. Here’s a list to consider as 2016 tax planning gets underway now that tax filing-season has ended:
Section 179 expensing. The PATH Act permanently extended the Code Section 179 dollar of investment limitations at the higher $500,000 and $2 million levels, which are adjusted for inflation for tax years beginning after 2015 (it is $500,000 and $2,010,000 for 2016). In addition, starting only in 2016, the $250,000 limitation on the amount of section 179 property that can be attributable to qualified real property has been eliminated. Further, for tax years beginning after 2015, the Code Section 179 expense deduction is now allowed for air conditioning and heating units.
Bonus depreciation. In addition to the big news that the PATH Act extended Code Section 168(k) bonus depreciation to apply to most qualifying property placed in service before January 1, 2020, it made a number of modifications, including:
- replacement of the bonus allowance for qualified leasehold improvement property with a bonus allowance for additions and improvements to the interior of any nonresidential real property, effective for property placed in service after 2015; and
- allowance to farmers of a 50 percent deduction in place of bonus depreciation on certain trees, vines, and plants in the year of planting or grafting rather than the placed-in-service year, effective for planting and grafting after 2015.
Section 181 expensing. Special Section 181 expensing for qualified film and television productions is extended for two years to apply to qualified film and television productions commencing before January 1, 2017. However, the expensing rule is also expanded to apply to qualified live theatrical productions commencing after December 31, 2015.
WOTC. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) has been extended five years through December 31, 2019. In addition, the credit has been expanded and made available to employers who hire individuals who are qualified long-term unemployment recipients who begin work for the employer after December 31, 2015.
Research credit. The PATH Act permanently extended the research credit that applies to amounts paid or incurred after December 31, 2014. However, a new allowance of the research credit against alternative minimum tax liability applies to credits determined for tax years beginning after December 31, 2015. In addition, a new payroll tax credit associated with the research credit applies only to tax years beginning after December 31, 2015 (Act Sec. 121(d) (3) of the PATH Act).
Military differential pay. The PATH Act extended the employer tax credit for differential wage payments made to qualified employees on active military duty. This has been made permanent and applies to payments made after December 31, 2014. Effective only for tax years beginning after December 31, 2015, however, the credit may be claimed by all employers regardless of the average number of individuals employed during the tax year. The credit is also no longer limited to eligible small business employers with less than 50 employees.
Teachers' classroom expense deduction. The PATH Act permanently extended the above-the-line deduction for elementary and secondary school teachers' classroom expenses. Additionally, for tax years after 2015, the Act includes "professional development expenses" within the scope of the deduction. These expenses include courses related to the curriculum in which the educator provides instruction.
Nonbusiness energy property credit. The PATH Act extended the nonrefundable nonbusiness energy property credit allowed to individuals under Code Sec. 25C for two years, making it available for qualified energy improvements and property placed in service before January 1, 2017. For property placed in service after December 31, 2015, the standards for energy efficient building envelope components are modified to meet new conservation criteria.