The IRS is obsoleting Rev. Rul. 58-74, 1958-1 CB 148, as of July 31, 2023. Rev. Rul. 58-74 generally allows a taxpayer that adopted the expense method for research and experimental (R&E) expenses to use a refund claim or amend a return to deduct R&E expenses that the taxpayer failed to deduct when they were paid or accrued.
Rev. Rul. 58-74 conflicts with current procedures for accounting method changes.
TCJA Changes for R&E Expenses
The decision to obsolete Rev. Rul. 58-74 is unrelated to the changes made by the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) (P.L. 115-97), even though the ruling relates to pre-TCJA accounting methods for R&E expenses.
Taxpayers could elect to amortize R&E expenses paid or incurred in tax years beginning before 2022, or deduct them currently. If the taxpayer did not make either election, the expenses had to be capitalized. A taxpayer that elected the expense method had to use it for all qualifying expenses unless the IRS consented to a different method for some or all of the expenses.
TCJA ended the expense election for R&E expenses paid or incurred in tax year beginning after 2021. Instead, the expenses must be amortized over five years (15 years for foreign expenses).
Rev. Rul. 57-74 and Change of Accounting Method Procedures
The IRS is obsoleting Rev. Rul. 58-74 because it includes insufficient facts to properly analyze whether the taxpayer’s failure to deduct certain R&E expenditures, such as the cost of obtaining a patent, when it deducted other R&E expenditures, constituted a method of accounting or an error.
For example, Rev. Rul. 58-74 does not explain whether the taxpayer consistently treated the costs of obtaining a patent in determining its taxable income. It also fails to describe the cause and extent of the deviation in the treatment of certain R&E expenditures that were not deducted.
In addition, filing an amended return, refund claim, or administrative adjustment request (AAR) under Rev. Rul. 58-74 is inconsistent with the IRS position that a taxpayer may not, without prior consent, retroactively change from an erroneous to a permissible method of accounting by filing amended returns. Rev. Rul. 58-74 is also inconsistent with the procedures for accounting method changes that qualify for automatic IRS consent.
Prospective Application of Decision to Obsolete Rev. Rul. 58-74
A taxpayer may rely on Rev. Rul. 58-74 if the taxpayer:
files the refund claim, amended return or AAR no later than July 31, 2023;
is claiming a deduction for an R&E expense that is eligible for the pre-TCJA expense election; and
is using the expense method for other such R&E expenses.
However, eligibility to rely on Rev. Rul. 58-74 does not imply that the IRS will grant the refund, deduction, or AAR. Instead, the IRS will continue to challenge the applicability of Rev. Rul. 58-74 when appropriate. For example, the IRS might challenge reliance on Rev. Rul. 58-74 when the taxpayer’s facts are distinguishable from Rev. Rul. 58-74, including where the taxpayer failed to adopt the expense method under pre-TCJA law.