As we enter a new tax season, manufacturers should consider options that may benefit their business. While this topic was originally discussed in a February 2019 release of Manufacturing Monitor, the cash basis method of accounting remains an important concept for many manufacturing companies to consider.
TCJA: A Recap
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that was signed into law in December 2017 introduced changes to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) the likes of which have not been seen since the Tax Reform Act of 1986. One of the most beneficial additions to the IRC resulting from the TCJA is the opportunity for some manufacturers to switch to a cash basis method of accounting.
Pros & Cons of Cash Basis Accounting
Under prior law, businesses with inventories were typically required to use the accrual method, which generally requires income to be recognized when it is earned and expenses to be recognized when they are incurred. The major pitfall to the accrual method of accounting is that it often accelerates the recognition of income and the related tax payments. That can create a cash flow problem. Under the cash basis of accounting, income is recognized when the money is received and expenses are deducted when they are paid. Improved cash flow is just one benefit associated with cash accounting; for example, the business can accelerate tax deductions by paying expenses prior to the end of its tax year.
Who is Eligible?
The TCJA allows businesses with average annual gross receipts of less than $25 million – based on their previous three tax years – to adopt a cash accounting method and thereby potentially defer the recognition of income to future tax years. In addition, businesses under that $25 million threshold are no longer required to account for their cost of goods sold using inventories.
Instead, they can use a method of accounting that treats inventories as non-incidental materials and supplies or that mimics their financial accounting treatment of inventories. As such, the business can expense inventory as it is actually paid for, rather than being required to capitalize it – that is, not expense it. It is a very favorable change in that it will add to the business’s deduction for cost of goods sold. Treating inventories as non-incidental materials and supplies also exempts the business from applying Section 263A, which requires certain costs ordinarily expensed to be capitalized as part of inventory for tax purposes. Combining these opportunities could yield considerable benefits.
The TCJA expands the pool of businesses that are eligible to use the cash method of accounting. It is likely that many manufacturers previously prohibited from using the cash basis method of accounting will now be eligible. Nonetheless, it is imperative to conduct a thorough analysis of your specific circumstances.