Section 199A Fix Update

Rod Mauszycki
By  Rod Mauszycki , DTN Tax Columnist

The recently passed budget bill contains a “fix” for the Section 199A dilemma with respect to sales to cooperatives. Let’s review the changes to get an idea of how it will work.

For noncorporate farmers, the changes to Section 199A will have minimal detrimental effect compared to the pre-2018 Section 199 provision. Section 199A’s deduction is limited to 20% of the taxpayer’s ordinary income except for the pass-through deduction from a cooperative (discussed below). Lower-income farmers may claim a deduction equal to 20% of qualified business income. A high-income farmer’s deduction may be limited to the greater of 50% of W-2 wage expense or 25% of wages plus 2.5% of qualified investment in depreciable property (the wage/investment limitation).

In almost all cases, Section 199A will result in a larger deduction than under the pre-2018 Section 199, “DPAD.” At worst, a farmer will get an 11% deduction. This is greater than then 9% under DPAD (Domestic Production Activities Deduction), which was limited by 50% wages paid. Under DPAD, if you had no wages, the only DPAD that could be claimed was the amount of DPAD passed through a cooperative.

For those noncorporate farmers selling to cooperatives, a deduction equal to 20% of net business income on such sales, subject to wage or wage/investment limitations, is available. The deduction will be reduced by an amount equal to the old DPAD benefit (9% of net income from sales to cooperative or 50% wages attributed to those sales). In addition, the farmer will be able to claim the pass-through deduction from the cooperative, regardless of character of income, wages or qualified investment in depreciable property.

Farmers who operate as a C corporation may or may not benefit from the new 199A. Under the new law, C corporations are not entitled to any Section 199A deduction. As a trade-off, C corporate tax rates dropped from a maximum 35% to a flat 21%. That is a 40% tax reduction. However, if the farm C corporation taxable income was always under $50,000, it was previously taxed at 15%. The increase to 21% is a 40% tax increase. The purpose of Section 199A deduction is to lower the business tax rate for noncorporations to level the playing field.

We are still waiting for IRS guidance on many issues with Section 199A, including about whether farm rental income qualifies for the deduction. However, we now have the framework for the new provision modified for the cooperative fix.

Tax Columnist Rod Mauszycki is a CPA and tax partner with the accounting firm of CliftonLarsonAllen, in New Ulm and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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