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Construction Tax Planning: A Proactive Approach To Accelerated Depreciation Planning



Peter Scalise

A properly designed and implemented Construction Tax Planning engagement will proactively identify additional tax savings related to new and/or planned construction projects. It should be duly noted that a Construction Tax Planning engagement should not be confused with a Cost Segregation engagement as there are several noteworthy differences between a Cost Segregation Engagement and a Construction Tax Planning Engagement.

A Cost Segregation Engagement will methodically review property, plant and equipment and properly reclassify real property (e.g., property that is generally depreciated for tax return purposes over a period of either 27.5 in the case of a commercial residential apartment building or 39 years in the case of a commercial office building) into personal property (e.g., property that is generally depreciated for tax return purposes over a period of either 3, 5, or 7 years) and land improvements (e.g., property that is generally depreciated for tax return purposes over a period of 15 years) by reviewing all of the structural components within the building structure (e.g., exterior walls, roof, windows, doors, etc.) and the building systems (e.g., lighting, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, escalators, elevators, fire-protection and alarm systems, security systems, gas distribution systems, etc.). In general, floor plans and blueprints are meticulously reviewed and site inspections are conducted to review the building envelope as part of an engineering based Cost Segregation engagement to ensure sustainable tax return filing positions per Circular 230.

In sharp contrast, a Construction Tax Planning Engagement utilizes a proactive “Pre-Design Phase” approach to identifying additional tax savings related to new and / or planned construction projects whether in connection to constructing a new building; adding a new wing to an existing building; or merely renovating a single floor within an existing building.

Construction Tax Planning enables accelerated depreciation deductions through the recommendation of select materials and supplies to be utilized in the “Construction Phase” to ensure that the structural components will be classified as personal property as opposed to real property (e.g., requesting a design-build contractor to utilize modular internal walls to bifurcate office and  / or conference room space in a commercial office building as opposed to permanently affixing these said internal walls to bifurcate office and / or conference room space within the floor configuration layout will enable the said structural components to be classified as personal property with a 5 year depreciable class life as opposed to real property with a 39 year depreciable class life).

In addition, Form 3115 is never filed as Construction Tax Planning is proactive and not reactive. Noting, there is no need to reclassify asset classifications as all of the structural components of the building envelope are properly classified when they are initially placed into service on a timely filed tax return. This mitigates IRS audit risk as an accounting method change never occurred and therefore Form 3115 is not filed. It should be duly recalled that Accounting Method changes only occur when a transaction is treated a certain way on a tax return (i.e., regardless of correctly or incorrectly) for a period of two years or more.

Finally, and as applicable, by combining Cost Segregation analysis with both the principles of Construction Tax Planning and Abandonment Deduction Planning per the Final Treasury Regulations governing Tangible Property (e.g., the retirement or abandonment of structural components within the building envelope before they have been fully depreciated over their asset class life for tax return purposes) you can optimize the true value of a comprehensive fixed asset analysis.

Please contact Peter J. Scalise, Federal Tax Credits & Incentives Practice Leader for the Americas at Prager Metis CPAs for a complimentary consultation if you are contemplating a planned construction project and would like to consider a comprehensive fixed asset analysis to optimally accelerate component depreciation. Peter can be reached at (212) 835-2211 or at pscalise@pragermetis.com

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Peter J. Scalise serves as the Federal Tax Credits & Incentives Practice Leader for Prager Metis CPAs, LLC a member of The Prager Metis International Group. Peter is a highly distinguished BIG 4 Alumni Tax Practice Leader and has approximately twenty years of progressive public accounting experience developing, managing and leading multi-million dollar tax advisory practices on both a regional and national level.

Peter is a highly acclaimed thought leader in the fields of accounting and taxation with deep subject matter expertise in connection to designing, implementing and defending sustainable methodologies for specialty tax incentives including, but not limited to, research tax incentives; orphan drug credits; therapeutic discovery credits; accounting methods and periods; energy tax incentives in connection to green building envelope efficiency and benchmarking, solar energy, bio energies, fuel cells, wind turbines, micro turbines, and geothermal systems; and comprehensive fixed asset analysis incorporating principles of construction tax planning, cost segregation analysis and the final treasury regulations governing tangible property.

Peter is a renowned keynote speaker and an extensively published author on specialty tax incentives, tax controversy matters, and legislative updates from Capitol Hill for NAREIT, AGRION, USGBC, AICPA, ASTP, NATP, ABA, AIA, and TEI. Peter serves as a member of the Tax Faculty for CPAacademy, iShade and TaxConnections University (“TCU”). Peter serves on both the Board of Directors and Board of Editors for The American Society of Tax Professionals (“ASTP”) and is the Founding President and Chairman of The Northeastern Region Tax Roundtable.