Bonus depreciation guidance that applies to property acquired after September 27, 2017, in a tax year that includes September 28, 2017, allows taxpayers to make a late election or revoke a prior valid election to:

  • elect out of 100 percent bonus depreciation;
  • elect 100 percent bonus depreciation on specified plants in the year of planting or grafting; or
  • elect the 50 percent rate in place of the 100 percent rate.

The late election or revocation may be made by filing an accounting method change, or in certain cases by filing an amended return. The taxpayer must have timely filed its federal tax return for the 2016 or 2017 tax year. Most taxpayers will prefer the administrative ease of filing an accounting method change with their next return and making a single Code Sec. 481(a) adjustment. This route is easier than filling an amended return and, if necessary, amended returns for any subsequent affected year.

Background
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act ( P.L. 115-97) increased the bonus depreciation rate from 50 percent to 100 percent, effective for property acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017. Many taxpayers filed returns for a 2016 or 2017 tax year that included September 27, 2017, before proposed bonus depreciation regulations ( REG-104397-18, August 8, 2018) were issued to explain the related bonus depreciation changes. Consequently, the IRS is granting relief to taxpayers, and disregarding the general rule that advance IRS permission must be obtained in a letter ruling to make a late election or revoke a prior election and that making or revoking an election is not an accounting method change.

Amended Returns
A late election or revocation of an election may be made on an amended return for the 2016 or 2017 tax year that includes September 28, 2017. However, according to the guidance, the amended return must be filed before the taxpayer files its federal return for the first tax year succeeding the 2016 or 2017 tax year, and must include the adjustment directly related to the late election or revocation as well as any collateral adjustments. Thus, for a calendar year taxpayer, an amended return for 2017 may be filed if the 2018 tax year return has not been filed. (e.g., if an October 15, 2019 filing extension was obtained).

Accounting Method Changes
Instead of filing an amended return, a taxpayer may file Form 3115, Application for Change in Accounting Method, with a taxpayer’s timely filed federal tax return for the first, second, or third tax year succeeding the 2016 or 2017 tax year that includes September 28, 2017, to make or revoke a covered election.

The automatic consent procedures apply. Accordingly, no fee is required. Multiple Forms 3115 do not need to be filed if more than one election or revocation is made.

Rev. Proc. 2018-31, I.R.B. 2018-22, 637, which lists all automatic accounting method changes, is modified to include this accounting method change.

Deemed Elections
A taxpayer who filed a timely 2016 or 2017 return that includes September 28, 2017, without following the formal election procedures in Rev. Proc. 2017-33, I.R.B. 2017-19, 1236, may be deemed to have made a valid election. Specifically, with respect to property placed in service after September 27, 2017, in a 2016 or 2017 tax year that includes September 28, 2017:

  • An election to claim 100 percent bonus depreciation on a specified plant in the year of planting or grafting is considered made if the 100 percent rate was actually claimed on the return.
  • An election not to claim bonus depreciation for a class of property is considered made if the taxpayer did not claim 100 percent bonus depreciation (or the elective 50 percent rate) for that class of property on the return.
  • An election to claim the 50 percent bonus rate in lieu of the 100 percent bonus rate is considered made if the taxpayer claimed bonus depreciation on all qualified property using the 50 percent rate or on all specified plants in the year of planting or grafting.

These deemed elections may be revoked by filing an amended return or an accounting method change under the general rules above.