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Practitioner’s Corner: Proposed Regs for Tax Reform’s Business Interest Limitation Expected Soon


Andrew Presti

Practitioner’s Corner: Proposed Regs for Tax Reform’s Business Interest Limitation Expected Soon

The IRS is expected to soon release proposed regulations for tax reform’s new business interest limitation. “They are so broad that nearly every domestic taxpayer will be impacted,” Daniel G. Strickland, an associate at Eversheds Sutherland, told Wolters Kluwer.

The first set of proposed regulations for the Code Sec. 163(j) business interest limitation is expected to focus primarily on corporations. A second package of proposed regulations, expected sometime in December, will reportedly address the business interest limitation’s treatment of partnerships and S corporations.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) ( P.L. 115-97), enacted last December, amended Code Sec. 163(j) to include a broader limitation on the business interest expense deduction. Before last year’s tax reform, the former Code Sec. 163(j) “earnings stripping” rules were applied much more narrowly to a specific type of debt-to-equity ratio held by corporations. Now, the amended Code Sec. 163(j)limitation encompasses all debt, regardless of entity or individual. The new business interest limitation was intended by Republicans, at least in part, to serve as a revenue raiser to help offset tax reform’s significant corporate tax rate reduction from 35 to 21 percent.

OMB Review

Currently, the proposed regulations for the Code Sec. 163(j) business interest limitation are under review at the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). OIRA received the proposed regulations from Treasury and the IRS on October 25, according to OIRA’s website.

It is expected on Capitol Hill that a 10-day expedited review process that is available for tax reform-related regulations was requested.

Business Interest Limitation

Under the amended Code Sec. 163(j), a taxpayer’s annual business interest expense for the tax year, effective for tax years after December 31, 2017, is limited to the following three factors:

  • business interest income;
  • 30 percent of adjustable taxable income (ATI); and
  • floor plan financing interest.

Under the TCJA, business interest excludes “investment interest” as defined in Code Sec. 163(d). Additionally, the calculation requirements for “adjusted taxable income” are set to change in 2022.

Practitioner Insight

“In terms of statutory language, phrases like ‘properly allocable’ jump off the page,”Strickland told Wolters Kluwer. Under the TCJA, “business interest” is defined as any interest paid or accrued on indebtedness that is properly allocable to a trade or business. It remains to be seen how the IRS will identify what is “properly allocable,”according to Strickland.

“Since propriety differs between taxpayers and the government, it will be interesting to see how the regulations handle it,” Strickland said. “Will we get a two-pronged objective and subjective test or will there be a bright line rule?” he posited.

Additionally, Strickland said that tax practitioners expect allocation rules will be included, but noted that it remains unclear what form the rules will take. Whether there will be separate rules for different types of entities and how the IRS will treat allocation between exempt and non-exempt entities and within consolidated groups are all interesting yet unsettled components, according to Strickland.

Further, Strickland predicted that the forthcoming regulations will clarify how Code Sec. 951A’s global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI) provision will interact with Code Sec. 163(j). “In the same vein, I expect that we will see how 163(j) plays with 168(k) and 267A, among other sections,” he added. “As we get each new piece of the puzzle, the whole picture comes into focus.”