Tax treatment of costs of starting a new business

As a new business owner, you probably expect to incur many expenses before you even open the doors. What you might not know is how these starting up costs are handled for tax purposes. A little knowledge about how these costs will affect your (or your business’) tax return can reduce any unexpected surprises when tax time comes around.

Starting a new business can be an exciting, although expensive, event that finds you, the small business owner, with a constantly open wallet. In most cases, all costs that you incur on behalf of your new company before you open the doors are capital expenses that increase the basis of your business. However, some of these pre-opening expenditures may be amortizable over a period of time if you choose. Pre-opening expenditures that are eligible for amortization will fall into one of two categories: start-up costs or organizational costs.

Start-up Costs

Start-up costs are certain costs associated with creating an active trade or business, investigating the creation or acquisition of an active trade or business, or purchasing an existing trade or business. If, before your business commences, you incur any cost that would normally be deductible as a business expense during the normal course of business, this would qualify as a start-up cost. Examples of typical start-up costs include attorney’s fees, pre-opening advertising, fees paid for consultants, and travel costs. However, deductible interest taxes, and research and development (R&D) expenses are treated differently.

Start-up costs are amortized as a group on the business’ tax return (or your own return on Schedule C, if you are a sole proprietor) over a period of no less than 60 months. The amortization period would begin in the month that your business began operations. In order to be able to claim the deduction for amortization related to start-up costs, a statement must be filed with the return for the first tax year you are in business by the due date for that return (plus extensions). However, both early (pre-opening) and late (not more than 6 months) submissions of the statement will be accepted by the IRS.

Organizational Costs

Organizational costs are those costs incurred associated with the organization of a corporation or partnership. If a cost is incurred before the commencement of business that is related to the creation of the entity, is chargeable to a capital account, and could be amortized over the life of the entity (if the entity had a fixed life), it would qualify as an organizational cost. Examples of organizational costs include attorney’s fees, state incorporation fees, and accounting fees.

Organizational costs are amortized using the same method as start-up costs (see above), although it is not necessary to use the same amortization period for both. A similar statement must be completed and filed with the company’s business tax return for the business’ first tax year.

Before you decide which, if any, pre-opening expenditures related to your new business you’d like to treat as start-up or organizational costs, please contact our office for additional guidance.