Don't Overlook Form 8594 When Buying or Selling a Business

Most businesses are made up of different types of assets, and those assets get different treatment for tax purposes. How those items are identified at the time of the sale/purchase can have a significant tax impact on both the buyer and the seller. A seller will, of course, want to designate items into classes that will yield a long-term capital gain on sale and thus provide the best tax result from the sale. Whereas, the buyer will generally want to designate the purchased items into classes that provide the biggest up front write-offs.

The IRS generally does not care how the class allocations are made so long as both the buyer and the seller use consistent treatment. That is where IRS Form 8594 comes in. The form allocates the entire purchase/sale price of the business into the various classes of assets; both the buyer and the seller are required to file the form with their tax returns. It is also very important that allocations be spelled out in the sale/purchase agreement and the treatment be consistent between the buyer and seller.

Generally, assets are divided into the seven categories very briefly described below:

Class I Cash and Bank Deposits
Class II Actively Traded Personal Property & Certificates of Deposit
Class III Debt Instruments
Class IV Stock in Trade (Inventory)
Class V Furniture, Fixtures, Vehicles, etc.
Class VI Intangibles (Including Covenant Not to Compete)
Class VII Goodwill of a Going Concern

A seller would prefer to designate the major portion of the sales price to goodwill and minimize any allocation to furnishings and equipment. Why, you ask? Because goodwill is a capital asset, the sale of which for federal purposes will be taxed at a maximum rate of 15%, while the furnishings and equipment can be taxed as high as 35%.  (These rates apply through 2012 according to the 2010 Tax Relief Act.)  On the other hand, the buyer would prefer to have as much as possible designated as furnishings and equipment, since they can be expensed or written off over a short period of time (usually 5 or 7 years) as opposed to a 15-year amortized write-off of the goodwill.

Whether you are the buyer or the seller, don't leave the asset allocations to chance. Negotiate the allocation as part of the sales agreement. If you don't, you could easily end up with inconsistent treatment and potential adjustments by the IRS.

If you are anticipating a sale, please call this office so we may assist you in structuring the transaction to your best benefit.