After years of debate, tax reform has arrived. The late-year 2017 passage and signing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has reshaped the business and individual tax landscape. The TCJA provides excellent tax opportunities for businesses of all sizes to invest in general aviation aircraft, but requires careful planning and review to ensure that deductions are preserved. Below you will find a few highlights of the new law, along with discussion points to consider with a trusted advisor.
Second in a series of articles on “How to Survive an IRS Audit of your Aircraft”
There are many valid business reasons to separate aircraft ownership from the operating companies it serves. These often include liability protection, ownership differences, and managerial issues to name a few. Although it is often beneficial to segregate ownership for non-tax reasons, it is important to avoid inadvertently causing the aircraft entity to be treated on a “stand-alone” basis for passive activity income tax purposes.
When a financed aircraft is owned in a special-purpose company, which lacks assets other than the aircraft, it is typical and understandable for the financing bank to insist that, in order to extend this special-purpose company a loan to purchase the aircraft, that loan must be guarantied by another, more solvent person or company. In fact, banks will often seek multiple, overlapping guaranties—for example, from both spouses a couple, or from an individual and another company owned by that individual.
Deducting Aircraft Expenses? Detailed Tax Calculations Now Mandatory
New IRS regulations effective in 2013 and forward require taxpayers claiming deductions for aircraft to undertake detailed calculations to determine what fraction of total expenses may be rendered non-deductible due to personal entertainment use of the plane. These calculations are necessary not only for aircraft owners, but also for lessees and charter customers; they apply to any company seeking deduction of expenses for use or ownership of business aircraft.
On August 1, 2012, the Department of Treasury published final regulations addressing the negative tax impact of entertainment use of business aircraft. These new regulations solidify into law a legal framework first discussed by the IRS in a 2005 published notice, and later expanded upon in a 2007 set of proposed regulations. Although these rules are complex and address a variety of topics, in this author’s view, the primary, noteworthy feature of the new regulation and its antecedents is a legal framework (referred to here as the “occupied seat rule”) which deals with how much aircraft expense is attributed to entertainment passengers onboard flights that are primarily flown for business purposes,