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Writing Off Your Startup Expenses

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Business owners—especially those operating small businesses—may be helped by a tax law allowing them to deduct up to $5,000 of the startup expenses in the first year of the business’s operation. This is in lieu of amortizing the expenses over 180 months (15 years).

 
Generally, startup expenses include all expenses incurred to investigate the formation or acquisition of a business or to engage in a for-profit activity in anticipation of that activity becoming an active business. To be eligible for the election, an expense must also be one that would be deductible if it were incurred after the business actually began. An example of a startup expense is the cost of analyzing the potential market for a new product.
 
 
As with most tax benefits, there is always a catch. Congress put a cap on the amount of startup expenses that can be claimed as a deduction under this special election. Here’s how to determine the deduction: If the expenses are $50,000 or less, you can elect to deduct up to $5,000 in the first year, plus you can amortize the balance over 180 months. If the expenses are more than $50,000, then the $5,000 first-year write-off is reduced dollar-for-dollar for every dollar in start-up expenses that exceed $50,000. For example, if start-up costs were $54,000, the first-year write-off would be limited to $1,000 ($5,000 – ($54,000 – $50,000)).
 
The election to deduct startup costs is made by claiming the deduction on the return for the year in which the active trade or business begins, and the return must be filed by the extended due date.
 
Qualifying Start-Up Costs – A qualifying start-up cost is one that would be deductible if it were paid or incurred to operate an existing active business in the same field as the new business and the cost is paid or incurred before the day the active trade or business begins. Not includible are taxes, interest, and research and experimental costs. Examples of qualified startup costs include:
 
  • Surveys/analyses of potential markets, labor supply, products, transportation facilities, etc.;
  • Wages paid to employees and their instructors while they are being trained;
  • Advertisements related to opening the business;
  • Fees and salaries paid to consultants or others for professional services; and
  • Travel and other related costs to secure prospective customers, distributors, and suppliers.
 
For the purchase of an active trade or business, only investigative costs incurred while conducting a general search for or preliminary investigation of the business (i.e., costs that help the taxpayer decide whether to purchase a new business and which one to purchase) are qualified startup costs. Costs incurred attempting to buy a specific business are capital expenses that aren’t treated as startup costs.
 
Original Post By: Barry Fowler, published via TaxConnections
 
Author: Barry Fowler is licensed to represent taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and is a longstanding member of several tax industry professional organizations including the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA), National Association of Tax Preparers (NATP), Texas Society of Enrolled Agents (TSEA), and the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers (ASTPS). With experience in the tax and finance industry spanning over twenty years, Fowler’s expertise includes tax resolution, personal financial planning, tax return preparation, financial statements, and general ledger bookkeeping. He has been instrumental in helping hundreds of people resolve complex tax issues with the IRS.
Published: May 11, 2015
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