On December 16, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced that an agreement had been reached on extenders and other tax provisions in the “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015.” The bipartisan, bicameral deal makes permanent many of the extenders—i.e., the 50 or so temporary tax provisions that are routinely extended by Congress on a one- or two-year basis and that have been expired since the end of 2014. A number of other extender provisions are extended through 2019, while others are extended for two years through 2016. The agreement is expected to be quickly passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.
PATH Act provisions include the following:
Extension of tax-free distributions from individual retirement plans for charitable purposes. The provision permanently extends the ability of individuals at least 70½ years of age to exclude from gross income qualified charitable distributions from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). The exclusion may not exceed $100,000 per taxpayer in any tax year.
Extension of 15-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant buildings and improvements, and qualified retail improvements. The provision permanently extends the 15-year recovery period for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant property, and qualified retail improvement property.
Extension and modification of increased expensing limitations and treatment of certain real property as section 179 property. The provision permanently extends the small business expensing limitation and phase-out amounts in effect from 2010 to 2014 ($500,000 and $2 million, respectively). These amounts currently are $25,000 and $200,000, respectively. The special rules that allow expensing for computer software and qualified real property (qualified leasehold improvement property, qualified restaurant property, and qualified retail improvement property) also are permanently extended. The provision modifies the expensing limitation by indexing both the $500,000 and $2 million limits for inflation beginning in 2016 and by treating air conditioning and heating units placed in service in tax years beginning after 2015 as eligible for expensing. The provision further modifies the expensing limitation with respect to qualified real property by eliminating the $250,000 cap beginning in 2016.
Enhanced child tax credit made permanent. The child tax credit (CTC) is a $1,000 credit. To the extent the CTC exceeds the taxpayer’s tax liability, the taxpayer is eligible for a refundable credit (the additional child tax credit) equal to 15 percent of earned income in excess of a threshold dollar amount (the “earned income” formula). Until 2009, the threshold dollar amount was $10,000 indexed for inflation from 2001 (which would be roughly $14,000 in 2015). Since 2009, however, this threshold amount has been set at an unindexed $3,000 and is scheduled to expire at the end of 2017, returning to the $10,000 (indexed for inflation) amount. The provision permanently sets the threshold amount at an unindexed $3,000.
Enhanced American opportunity tax credit made permanent. The Hope Scholarship Credit is a credit of $1,800 (indexed for inflation) for various tuition and related expenses for the first two years of post-secondary education. It phases out for AGI starting at $48,000 (if single) and $96,000 (if married filing jointly) – these amounts are also indexed for inflation. The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) takes those permanent provisions of the Hope Scholarship Credit and increases the credit to $2,500 for four years of post-secondary education, and increases the beginning of the phase-out amounts to $80,000 (single) and $160,000 (married filing jointly) for 2009 to 2017. The provision makes the AOTC permanent.
Extension and modification of deduction for certain expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers. The provision permanently extends the above-the-line deduction (capped at $250) for the eligible expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers. Beginning in 2016, the provision also modifies the deduction to index the $250 cap to inflation and include professional development expenses.
Extension of deduction of State and local general sales taxes. The provision permanently extends the option to claim an itemized deduction for State and local general sales taxes in lieu of an itemized deduction for State and local income taxes. The taxpayer may either deduct the actual amount of sales tax paid in the tax year, or alternatively, deduct an amount prescribed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Extension and modification of research credit. The provision permanently extends the research and development (R&D) tax credit. Additionally, beginning in 2016 eligible small businesses ($50 million or less in gross receipts) may claim the credit against alternative minimum tax (AMT) liability, and the credit can be utilized by certain small businesses against the employer’s payroll tax (i.e., FICA) liability.
Extension of exclusion of 100 percent of gain on certain small business stock. The provision extends the temporary exclusion of 100 percent of the gain on certain small business stock for non-corporate taxpayers to stock acquired and held for more than five years. This provision also permanently extends the rule that eliminates such gain as an AMT preference item.
Extension of reduction in S-corporation recognition period for built-in gains tax. The provision permanently extends the rule reducing to five years (rather than ten years) the period for which an S corporation must hold its assets following conversion from a C corporation to avoid the tax on built-in gains.
Extension and modification of exclusion from gross income of discharge of qualified principal residence indebtedness. The provision extends through 2016 the exclusion from gross income of a discharge of qualified principal residence indebtedness. The provision also modifies the exclusion to apply to qualified principal residence indebtedness that is discharged in 2017, if the discharge is pursuant to a written agreement entered into in 2016.
Extension of mortgage insurance premiums treated as qualified residence interest. The provision extends through 2016 the treatment of qualified mortgage insurance premiums as interest for purposes of the mortgage interest deduction. This deduction phases out ratably for a taxpayer with AGI of $100,000 to $110,000.
Extension of above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses. The provision extends through 2016 the above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses for higher education. The deduction is capped at $4,000 for an individual whose AGI does not exceed $65,000 ($130,000 for joint filers) or $2,000 for an individual whose AGI does not exceed $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers).
Improvements to section 529 accounts. The provision expands the definition of qualified higher education expenses for which tax-preferred distributions from 529 accounts are eligible to include computer equipment and technology. The provision modifies 529-account rules to treat any distribution from a 529 account as coming only from that account, even if the individual making the distribution operates more than one account. The provision treats a refund of tuition paid with amounts distributed from a 529 account as a qualified expense if such amounts are re-contributed to a 529 account within 60 days. The provision is effective for distributions made or refunds after 2014, or in the case of refunds after 2014 and before the date of enactment, for refunds re-contributed not later than 60 days after date of enactment.
Rollovers permitted from other retirement plans into simple retirement accounts. The provision allows a taxpayer to roll over amounts from an employer-sponsored retirement plan (e.g., 401(k) plan) to a SIMPLE IRA, provided the plan has existed for at least two years. The provision applies to contributions made after the date of enactment.
Other provisions include:
Enhanced earned income tax credit made permanent.
Extension of parity for exclusion from income for employer-provided mass transit and parking benefits.
Extension and modification of special rule for contributions of capital gain real property made for conservation purposes.
Extension and modification of charitable deduction for contributions of food inventory.
Extension of modification of tax treatment of certain payments to controlling exempt organizations.
Extension of basis adjustment to stock of S corporations making charitable contributions of property.
Extension and modification of employer wage credit for employees who are active duty members of the uniformed services.
Extension of treatment of certain dividends of regulated investment companies.
Extension of subpart F exception for active financing income.
Extension of temporary minimum low-income housing tax credit rates for non-Federally subsidized buildings.
Extension of military housing allowance exclusion for determining whether a tenant in certain counties is low-income.
Extension of RIC qualified investment entity treatment under FIRPTA.
Extension of new markets tax credit.
Extension and modification of work opportunity tax credit.
Extension and modification of bonus depreciation.
Extension of look-thru treatment of payments between related controlled foreign corporations under foreign personal holding company rules.
Extension of Indian employment tax credit.
Extension and modification of railroad track maintenance credit.
Extension of mine rescue team training credit.
Extension of qualified zone academy bonds.
Extension of classification of certain race horses as 3-year property.
Extension of 7-year recovery period for motorsports entertainment complexes.
Extension and modification of accelerated depreciation for business property on an Indian reservation.
Extension of election to expense mine safety equipment.
Extension of special expensing rules for certain film and television productions
Extension of deduction allowable with respect to income attributable to domestic production activities in Puerto Rico.
Extension and modification of empowerment zone tax incentives.
Extension of temporary increase in limit on cover over of rum excise taxes to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Extension of American Samoa economic development credit.
Moratorium on medical device excise tax.
Please contact our office if you would like a complete list of the PATH Act of 2015 provisions. Have a safe Holiday Season!