Bad Debts Gone Wild: Part III, Business Debt
In the last part of this series, we covered the consumer side of bad debt charge-offs and how the IRS handles that from a tax perspective. Today I want to delve into the business side of bad debt charge-offs. This side of things is usually quite complex and hard to generalize but I will attempt to keep my “tax guru” side in check and you on board.
Business Not What It Used To Be?
Let’s assume that we’re talking about a business (Corporation or LLC that is treated as an S-Corp for tax purposes) that has been hit hard by the recession and has run out of money to pay its creditors. Typically in cases like this the business will notify creditors who will then turn around and liquidate the business assets in order to attempt to recoup at least part of the debt owed. Once that happens the business is faced with a balance plus late fees and interest to cover.
Many times business owners will be able to negotiate a settlement far under the remaining balance owed and once that agreed upon price has been paid, the business owner will generally feel they have taken care of everything and their ordeal is over. Hooray!
But Wait! There’s More!
It’s not exactly time to celebrate yet. Come tax season the, now former, business owner receives a 1099-C for the canceled debt and interest. Now what to do? At this point the business owner would be wise to contact their accounting professional who will review the situation and offer advice on how much of that total will actually be taxable.
Their accounting professional will be able to determine this number by assessing the net worth of the business (a negative number at this point), the fair market value of any remaining business assets, and the amount of the canceled debt among other factors. Whatever the balance is, if any, is the amount of taxable income the business owner would be liable for paying taxes on.
The business owner may also be entitled to an ordinary business loss equal to the difference between the fair market value of business assets that were auctioned off (or the canceled debt, if less) and the cost of the assets to the owner.
Call Now And Save
As always there are a hundred different variables that will affect the outcome of a scenario like this; this example is a highly simplified version used to provide a general understanding of the concept and should not be taken as de facto for all situations.
My goal is to provide fair warning to business owners with a loss that they WILL have to deal with charged off debts when it comes time to handle their taxes. I also want to point out that it isn’t nearly as awful as it might first seem and, with the help of a professional, your tax liability may be significantly reduced or even eliminated. So don’t ignore those 1099-Cs, if you do it will create an even bigger and more expensive mess to straighten out.