The New Business Interest Expense Rules

The IRS released the final regulations and other guidance on the limitation on the deduction for business interest expenses amended by the CARES Act of 2020.

The 2017 tax overhaul limited the business deduction as a way of helping pay for the $1.5 trillion set of tax cuts, but the $2 trillion legislative package approved by Congress in March temporarily eliminated some of the restrictions as a way to help businesses cope with the impact of the pandemic.

Under the TCJA, for tax years starting after Dec. 31, 2017, business interest expense deductions are generally limited to the sum of:

  • The taxpayer’s business interest income.
  • Thirty percent (or 50%, as applicable) of the taxpayer’s adjusted taxable income.
  • The taxpayer’s floor plan financing interest expense.

However, the business interest expense deduction limitation won’t apply to certain small businesses, electing farming businesses and certain regulated public utilities. The $26 million gross receipts threshold applies for the 2020 tax year and will be adjusted annually for inflation.

A real property trade or business or a farming business can elect to be exempted from the business interest expense limitation. However, taxpayers can’t claim the additional first-year depreciation deduction for certain types of property held by the electing trade or business.

Taxpayers must use Form 8990, Limitation on Business Interest Expense Under Section 163(j), to calculate and report their deductions and the amount of disallowed business interest expenses to carry forward to the next tax year.

Along with the final regulations, the IRS also issued extra guidance related to the business interest expense limitation. These proposed regulations spell out additional guidance on different business interest expense deduction limitation issues not addressed in the final regulations, including more complex issues pertaining to the amendments made by the CARES Act. Subject to some restrictions, taxpayers can rely on some of the rules in the proposed regulations until final regulations implementing the proposed regulations are published in the Federal Register.

The IRS has also provided an FAQ list regarding the aggregation rules under section 448(c)(2) that apply to the section 163(j) small-business exemption.

Both the final and proposed rules are complex, and companies should get our advice on how the rules apply.