Small accounting firms could see large benefits from new tax legislation

Included in the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 - passed by the House of Representatives September 23 and the Senate September 16 - is the creation of a $30 billion lending fund that will utilize healthy community banks as a conduit to increase lending to small businesses - a provision that will generate $1 billion for the treasury, according to officials.

The fund also will provide $1.5 billion in grants to support at least $15 billion in new small-business lending through already successful state-run programs.

Among the $12 billion in tax breaks are a 100-percent exclusion of capital-gains tax on small-business investments made in 2010 and an increase in the maximum deduction for start-up expenditures in 2010 and 2011 - from $5,000 to $10,000.

"Naturally, any change in tax law stimulates our business in that we must provide the analysis of the bill and relay that information to our clients who may be affected," Perry C. Barnett, CPA, partner responsible for business services for Gainesville, GA-based Rushton & Co. LLC, told AccountingWEB.

Douglas C. Smith, CPA, CVA, a partner with Lawrenceville, NJ-based Bartolomei Pucciarelli LLC, told AccountingWEB that he anticipates a significant increase in tax planning this year due to the provisions outlined in the bill, as well as modest improvement in the business of many of the firm's clients.

"Almost any new tax legislation is a benefit to our firm, but fortunately, many of the provisions of the bill will benefit our clients, as well," he added. "Since we are advocates of advanced planning, this bill provides us with the opportunity to make our clients aware of the upcoming changes and perform tax-planning engagements to guide them in implementation."

While he does not see any significant changes in the firm's accounting or auditing services as a result of the new legislation, Smith stated there will be consideration of additional accruals of penalties assessed on timely filing of information returns, as well as some impact on deferred taxes as it relates to the accelerated bonus depreciation provision.

The bonus depreciation provision is the most expensive tax break in the bill, weighing in at $5.4 billion over 10 years, but carrying an initial cost of $38 billion in its first two years, according to an analysis conducted by CCH Inc., a Wolters Kluwer business based in Riverwoods, IL, that provides tax, accounting, and auditing software and services.

The bill extends - through December 31, 2010 - 50-percent first-year bonus depreciation that had expired at the end of 2009. The extension is retroactive to January 1, 2010. The bill also extends through 2011 bonus depreciation allowed for property with a recovery period of 10 years or longer, such as personal property used to transport people or other property.

Small businesses will be allowed to write off up to $500,000 in capital expenditures in tax years 2010 and 2011. Under current law, the maximum deduction for tax years beginning in 2010 is $250,000.

Two other provisions in the bill that Smith believes will benefit his firm's clients are: self-employed taxpayers will be allowed to deduct health-care costs for payroll tax purposes on 2010 returns, and participants in 401(k), 403(b), and 457 governmental plans will be permitted to roll over pretax account balances into a Roth account.

If an amount is rolled over in 2010, the amount is included ratably in income over a two-year period beginning with tax year 2011, according to the CCH analysis. The legislation also allows participants in state and governmental 457 plans to contribute deferred amounts to designated Roth accounts, effective for tax years beginning after 2010.

"Whenever we as CPAs are presented with the opportunity to educate our clients, it is a good thing," Smith said. "There are many planning opportunities contained in the bill - ranging from the timing of a sale of small business stock, to planning the acquisitions of new equipment to take advantage of the expanded depreciation provisions, to planning the start of a new business that takes advantage of increased deductions for start-up expenses.

"Additionally, with benefits such as the deduction for health insurance when calculating self-employment income, out clients should be able to put a little extra money in their pockets, too," Smith added.

Barnett agreed that the start-up expenses and the self-employed health insurance changes will benefit his firm's clients, as well. However, he added that the continual increase in reporting requirements, especially the new requirement for filing Form 1099 scheduled to begin for 2011, could burden some small businesses.

"Based on this law and those in the works, each client will have to maintain a huge database of all vendor payments," Barnett said. "We see this as a giant logjam for both the business and the IRS.

"The greatest impediment to business moving forward is being confident of what the tax laws are going to be in the future," he continued. "Until Congress realizes that their indecision in estate taxes and personal income taxes is one of the greatest concerns of everyone, they will not get the economy on track."

The House approved the bill in a 237-187 vote, while the Senate passed the bill by a 61-38 margin after Republican senators George LeMieux of Florida and George Voinovich of Ohio crossed party lines to support the legislation.

"This is about helping small business owners grow their operations, hire more workers, and help improve our economy," LeMieux said in a statement. "Small business is the backbone of our economy, creating two out of every three jobs in our country. They need tax relief; they need access to capital. This bill will help achieve those goals and will not raise taxes or add to the national debt."
 

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