How Section 174 May Impact Construction & Engineering Firms With R&D

by Drew Mansell, CPA – Harris CPAs

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), passed in 2017, was the most significant amendment to the Internal Revenue Code since the 1980s. The majority of the changes have already gone in to effect, and taxpayers and practitioners alike are familiar with most of them, as we’re four tax years in to the law’s implementation. However, a set of amendments seldom discussed until now are the amendments to Internal Revenue Code Section 174. These changes go in to effect for tax years beginning after 12/31/21 and may impact some construction and engineering firms with R&D.

Section 174 defines which expenditures are qualifying research and development expenditures associated with claiming an R&D Tax Credit under Section 41 on form 6765. These costs include costs incurred related to the development or improvement of a product, including costs associated with improving the production process, and costs incurred for internally developed software.

Starting in 2022, these costs can no longer be expensed in the year incurred. The amendments to Section 174 require these costs to be amortized over 5 years for costs incurred domestically, and 15 years for costs incurred outside the US. These costs must be capitalized as of the midpoint of the tax year when the expenses were incurred. This means the 60 or 180 month amortization period will begin July 1st for most taxpayers. A key point about the changes to Section 174 is that even if a taxpayer is not eligible to take the R&D tax credit under Section 41, the requirement to capitalize Section 174 costs still applies.

A requirement to file an Accounting Method Change (Form 3115) may exist for taxpayers who have historically expensed Section 174 costs in the year incurred. Companies impacted by the above changes should contact Harris prior to the end of 2022 to ensure these costs are being accurately captured, as well as to discuss any potential 3115 filing requirement and materiality of book to tax differences.

More on Construction and Engineering:

Share this Post