How States May React to Federal Tax Reform

I hope you had a great Christmas, and are looking forward to 2018.

Last week, the President signed tax reform (H.R. 1) into law making the most dramatic overhaul to our federal tax code since 1986. I normally focus on state taxes, but I have been analyzing the federal tax reform changes for specific clients and doing some ghost-writing. 

Here I want to provide you with some predictions as to how the states may respond to some of the main business federal tax changes.

  1. New federal tax law allows 100% expensing of short-lived capital investments, such as machinery and equipment (for 5 years) - applies to qualified property placed in service after 9/27/17 and before 2023. States will most likely NOT conform to this provision and require businesses to add-back the federal deduction.
  2. New federal tax law raises Section 179 small business expensing cap to $1 million with a phaseout starting at $2.5 million. States will most likely NOT conform to this provision and require businesses to add-back the federal deduction.
  3. New federal tax law eliminates net operating loss (NOL) carrybacks while providing indefinite net operating loss carryforwards, limited to 80 percent of taxable income. Most states don't use the federal NOL and compute their own state NOL, and thus, will most likely not conform to this change. However, there are a handful of states that use the federal NOL and do not compute a separate state NOL. These states will have to make a decision as to whether to conform to the federal changes. I think these states will most likely conform. (For more info on state NOLs, see my previous post)
  4. Under the new federal tax law, research expenses are required to be amortized and the domestic production deduction (Sec. 199) was repealed. States will most likely conform to these changes.
  5. The new federal tax law creates a new 20% deduction for pass-through entities. The calculation for this new deduction is extremely complex and has several limitations. States that are impacted negatively (i.e., obtain less tax revenue) by this deduction will most likely NOT conform. (Here is a link to an article by the Tax Foundation - Pass-Through Deduction Won’t Flow Through to Most States)

Those are the top 5 business tax changes (other than the tax rate changes and tax changes for foreign income) that I believe the states will address specifically. 

Have a Happy New Year and remember - you can't keep doing the same things and expect a different result! Change can be good. Start now.