During 2016, the IRS and Treasury issued additional guidance for clients who are required to comply with the final tangible property regulations. These regulations address every phase of an asset’s life cycle—from acquisition, to repair and maintenance or improvement, to disposition.
All clients that acquire tangible property were required to comply with these regulations beginning with the 2014 tax year by filing Forms 3115 with their 2014 tax returns or, for your small taxpayer clients, by following the procedures outlined in Rev. Proc. 2015-20.
Fortunately, for those clients who may have missed making a required method change for tangible property or who need to correct a previously filed method change, the IRS is waiving certain eligibility rules that would otherwise prevent your clients from using the automatic method change procedures for the 2016 tax year. However, it is important to file Forms 3115 before being contacted by the IRS for exam to receive audit protection for improper methods used in prior tax years.
Highlights of the New Tangible Property Regulations
We’ve prepared a whitepaper with greater detail that you can get here, but we summarize four key changes below:
Two provisions that were available for the 2014 tax year have expired.
Rev. Proc. 2015-20, allowing your small taxpayer clients to change their methods of accounting for tangible property without filing a Form 3115, only applied for the 2014 tax year. Under this procedure, your small taxpayer clients agreed to change their methods of accounting for tangible property on a cut-off basis without a Section 481(a) adjustment for prior tax years. These clients elected to forgo IRS audit protection for prior tax years.
In addition, the late partial disposition election method change was only available for the 2012-2014 tax years.
New List of Automatic Method Changes (Rev. Proc. 2016-29)
On May 5, 2016, the IRS and Treasury issued a new comprehensive list of automatic method changes. One of the most significant changes affects taxpayers who used the property’s tax basis to claim a federal income tax credit or who elected to apply Section 168(k)(4) to claim a refundable tax credit in lieu of bonus depreciation. These clients must now use the non-automatic method change procedures to make a change in accounting method for this property.
New Audit Techniques Guide
On September 14, 2016, the IRS issued a new Audit Techniques Guide (ATG) on Capitalization of Tangible Property, which helps IRS agents spot potential tax-related compliance issues. The ATG can provide you with insight into the questions that examiners will ask and documentation they will request.
The IRS has started to examine taxpayer compliance with these regulations. To prepare for an IRS audit, you should keep copies of all Forms 3115 filed by your clients in prior tax years, work papers supporting any Section 481(a) adjustments, and documentation supporting changes in accounting methods. You should also ensure that new accounting methods were adopted in 2014 and consistently followed in subsequent tax years.
Waiver of the Five-Year Eligibility Rule (Notice 2017-6)
On December 20, 2016, the IRS waived the five-year eligibility rule that would otherwise prevent your clients from using the automatic method change procedures to make the same change in method of accounting for tangible property within a five-year period. The waiver applies to Forms 3115 that are filed for the 2016 tax year.
The wavier creates an opportunity to re-visit the work that was performed in 2014 to comply with these regulations. Any missed or corrective method changes should be filed with the 2016 tax return while the waiver is in effect.
CSP360 is well versed in the Tangible Property Regulations and implementing procedures, and the method changes that can result in significant tax savings. If you have any question or concerns regarding compliance with the Tangible Property Regulations, you can schedule a complementary Tax Situation Review with a member of our Tax Team here.