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Changes to Net Operating Losses After Tax Reform

Tax reform made many good changes in the tax law for the small-business owner. But the changes to the net operating loss (NOL) deduction rules are not in the good-changes category. They are designed to hurt you and put money in the IRS’s pocket.

Now, if you have a bad year in your business, the new NOL rules are designed to stop you from using your business loss to find some immediate cash. The new (let’s call them bad-for-you) rules certainly differ from the prior beneficial rules.

Old NOL Rules

You have an NOL when your business deductions exceed your business income in a taxable year. Before tax reform, you could carry back the NOL to prior tax years and get refunds of taxes paid in those prior years.

Alternatively, you could have elected to waive the NOL carryback and instead carry forward the NOL to offset some or all of your taxable income in future tax years.

New NOL Rules

Tax reform made two key changes to the NOL rules:

  1. You can no longer carry back the NOL (except for certain qualified farming losses).
  1. Your NOL carryforward can offset only up to 80 percent of your taxable income in a tax year.

The changes put more money in the IRS’s pocket by

  • eliminating your ability to get an immediate tax benefit from your NOL carryback, and
  • delaying your ability to get tax benefits from future NOL carryforwards.

We are bringing the NOL rules to your attention in case you need to do some planning with us. We likely have some strategies that can help you realize some immediate benefits from your business loss.

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