Last year construction contractors saw projects suspended indefinitely (or scrapped altogether) and escalated competition in the bidding process, both of which effectively stifled profit margins. It’s safe to say that the construction industry was not spared the upheaval of 2020. After such a tumultuous year, tax planning for 2021 might seem like a daunting challenge, but it’s a critical step for construction contractors in preparation of the year ahead.
Essential Tax Provisions for 2021 Preparation
With the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic and a transfer of administrations in the White House this year, new legislation affecting tax provisions is a possibility, but there are several provisions under the current tax law, including those put in place under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, that you want to be sure not to pass over.
Are you eligible to use the bonus depreciation this year? Changes have been made to qualifying property under both the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and the CARES Act as follows:
- TCJA: expanded the bonus depreciation deduction to 100% for specified property obtained and placed in service after Sept. 27, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2023.
- CARES Act: authorized the qualified improvement property (QIP)—typically interior improvements to nonresidential property—to be depreciable over 15 years and eligible for 100% bonus depreciation.
Tax Credits and Deductions
These tax credits and deductions could aid in reducing tax liability for contractors:
- Research and development credits: contractors who test new techniques or processes on construction jobs could be eligible.
- Deduction for energy-efficient government buildings: contractors may be eligible for a deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot for building energy-efficient commercial buildings intended for federal, state or local governments.
- Credit for energy-efficient residential properties: Contractors can take advantage of tax credits for certain energy-efficient residential properties.
Note that the deduction and credit for energy-efficient buildings expire at the end of 2021.
Qualified Business Income Deduction
The TCJA replaced the 9% “domestic production activities deduction” under IRC Section 199 with a 20% Qualified Business Income deduction under IRC Section 199A. It also increased eligibility to encompass more businesses. Contractors might want to start the conversation with their tax advisor on how to maximize this deduction as well as receive guidance on how to maneuver through the calculation’s somewhat complicated rules and limits.
Flexibility with Accounting Methods
Smaller construction firms (meaning those with average gross receipts of less than $26 million from the prior three years) generally enjoy more flexibility with tax accounting methods. Such firms could be eligible to use cash, accrual, completed contract or “accrual less retainage” accounting methods, all of which usually aid in managing the timing of revenue recognition. This allows companies to stimulate revenue to counterbalance current losses and recognize revenue now in expectation of higher future tax rates.
Additional Tax Planning Considerations Amid the Pandemic
To help minimize the risks of ongoing economic uncertainty, contractors should consider keeping apprised of tax changes. Given the seemingly ever-changing legislation amid the pandemic, construction firms should keep in regular contact with their tax advisors in order to avoid any tax reform surprises. However, contractors should also aim to operate without presumption of further legislation. While the economic effects of the pandemic are ongoing, don’t assume further stimulus legislation like the Paycheck Protection Program will be passed by Congress.
In light of a turbulent 2020, the construction industry has experienced a return to the business practices that have proven successful in the past: more attention to jobsite monitoring, legal contracts, and insurance costs. Contractors can contact an MKR advisor to incorporate 2021 tax planning into this process.