Final regulations on Sec. 199A issued

By Sally P. Schreiber, J.D.

The IRS issued final regulations (T.D. 9847, available at on the qualified business income (QBI) deduction under Sec. 199A and an anti-avoidance rule under Sec. 643 that will require multiple trusts to be treated as a single trust in certain cases.

Sec. 199A allows taxpayers to deduct up to 20% of QBI from a domestic business operated as a sole proprietorship or through a partnership, S corporation, trust, or estate. The Sec. 199A deduction can be taken by individuals and by some estates and trusts. The deduction is not available for wage income or for business income earned through a C corporation.

The deduction is generally available to taxpayers whose 2018 taxable incomes fall below $315,000 for joint returns and $157,500 for other taxpayers. The deduction is generally equal to the lesser of 20% of the taxpayer's QBI plus 20% of the taxpayer's qualified real estate investment trust (REIT) dividends and qualified publicly traded partnership (PTP) income, or 20% of taxable income minus net capital gains. Deductions for taxpayers above the $157,500/$315,000 thresholds may be limited; the application of those limits is described in the regulations. These amounts are inflation-adjusted. (For more on the deduction, see Nitti, "Understanding the New Sec. 199A Business Income Deduction," 49 The Tax Adviser 224 (April 2018).


The IRS noted that the final regulations had been modified somewhat from the proposed regulations issued last August (REG-107892-18) as a result of comments it received and testimony at a public hearing it held. The final regulations apply to tax years ending after Feb. 8, the date they were published in the Federal Register; however, taxpayers may rely on the proposed regulations for tax years ending in 2018.

The IRS says it received approximately 335 comments on the proposed regulations. The final regulations contain modifications based on some of those comments, and the IRS says it is continuing to study some comments it received that were beyond the scope of the proposed regulations.

Net capital gain: The IRS had not defined "net capital gain" in the proposed regulations, and a number of commenters had requested a definition. The final regulations define net capital gain for purposes of Sec. 199A as net capital gain under Sec. 1222(11) (the excess of net long-term capital gain for the tax year over the net short-term capital loss for that year) plus qualified dividend income as defined in Sec. 1(h)(11)(B).

Relevant passthrough entities: The proposed regulations defined a relevant passthrough entity (RPE) as a partnership (other than a PTP) or an S corporation that is owned, directly or indirectly, by at least one individual, estate, or trust. A trust or estate is treated as an RPE to the extent it passes through QBI, W-2 wages, unadjusted basis immediately before acquisition (UBIA) of qualified property, qualified REIT dividends, or qualified PTP income.The final regulations expand this definition by providing that another passthrough entity, including a common trust fund described in Temp. Regs. Sec. 1.6032-T and a religious or apostolic organization described in Sec. 501(d), is also treated as an RPE if the entity files a Form 1065, U.S. Return of Partnership ­Income, and is owned, directly or indirectly, by at least one individual, estate, or trust. It declined to treat RICs as RPEs, however, because they are C corporations.

Trade or business: After considering all relevant comments, the final regulations retain and slightly reword the proposed regulations' definition of a trade or business. Specifically, for purposes of Sec. 199A, Regs. Sec. 1.199A-1(b)(14) defines a trade or business as a trade or business under Sec. 162 other than the trade or business of performing services as an employee.The IRS again rejected suggestions that the Service use the Sec. 469 passive activity rules, explaining that whether a trade or business exists is a different determination than that applied to the passive loss rules.

Under the final regulations, the rental or licensing of tangible or intangible property to a related trade or business is treated as a trade or business if the rental or licensing activity and the other trade or business are commonly controlled under Regs. Sec. 1.199A-4(b)(1)(i). This rule also allows taxpayers to aggregate their trades or businesses with the leasing or licensing of the associated rental or intangible property if all of the requirements of Regs. Sec. 1.199A-4 are met.

One commenter suggested the rule apply to situations in which the rental or licensing is to a commonly controlled C corporation. Another commenter suggested that the rule in the proposed regulations could allow passive leasing and licensing-type activities to benefit from Sec. 199A even if the counterparty is not an individual or an RPE. The commenter recommended that the exception be limited to scenarios in which the related party is an individual or an RPE and that the term "related party" be defined with reference to existing attribution rules under Sec. 267, 707, or 414. The final regulations clarify these rules by adopting these recommendations and limiting this special rule to situations in which the related party is an individual or an RPE.

The final regulations include changes suggested by commenters to the computational rules in the proposed regulations. The final regulations clarify the proposed regulations by providing that for taxpayers with taxable income within the phase-in range, QBI from a specified service trade or business (SSTB) must be reduced by the applicable percentage before the application of the netting and carryover rules described in Regs. Sec. 1.199A-1(d)(2)(iii)(A). In addition, the final regulations clarify that the SSTB limitations also apply to qualified income received by an individual from a PTP.

Disregarded entities: The final regulations provide that an entity with a single owner that is treated as disregarded as an entity separate from its owner under Regs. Sec. 301.7701-3 is disregarded for Sec. 199A purposes. Accordingly, trades or businesses conducted by a disregarded entity are treated as conducted directly by the entity's owner.

Share of UBIA property: The final regulations modify the proposed regulations with regard to the allocation to partners of the UBIA of qualified property. In the proposed regulations, in the case of a partnership with qualified property that does not produce tax depreciation during the year, each partner's share of the UBIA of qualified property would be based on how gain would be allocated to the partners under Secs. 704(b) and 704(c) if the qualified property were sold in a hypothetical transaction for cash equal to the fair market value of the qualified property. The final regulations remove the reference to Sec. 704(c), stating that each partner's share of the UBIA of qualified property is determined in accordance with how depreciation would be allocated for Sec. 704(b) book purposes under Regs. Sec. 1.704-1(b)(2)(iv)(g) on the last day of the tax year.

Under the final regulations, for an S corporation's qualified property, each shareholder's share of UBIA of qualified property is a share of the unadjusted basis proportionate to the ratio of shares in the S corporation held by the shareholder on the last day of the tax year over the total issued and outstanding shares of the S corporation.

Basis for contributed property: Another change in response to comments was for a basis rule for property contributed to a partnership in a Sec. 721 transaction or to an S corporation in a Sec. 351 transaction that the property should retain its basis. Therefore, Regs. Sec. 1.199A-2(c)(3)(iv) provides that, solely for Sec. 199A purposes, if qualified property is acquired in a transaction described in Sec. 168(i)(7)(B), the transferee's UBIA in the qualified property is the same as the transferor's UBIA in the property, decreased by the amount of money received by the transferee in the transaction or increased by the amount of money paid by the transferee to acquire the property in the transaction.

Similarly, in response to comments, the final rules clarify how to determine the UBIA of replacement property under Sec. 1031 or 1033. They also explain how Sec. 743(b) basis adjustments for partnerships should be treated for UBIA but also request further comments on Sec. 743(b) adjustments.

Aggregating trades or businesses: In a break from the proposed regulations,the final regulations permit an RPE to aggregate trades or businesses it operates directly or through lower-tier RPEs. The resulting aggregation must be reported by the RPE and by all owners of the RPE. An individual or upper-tier RPE may not separate the aggregated trade or business of a lower-tier RPE but instead must maintain the lower-tier RPE's aggregation. An individual or upper-tier RPE may aggregate additional trades or businesses with the lower-tier RPE's aggregation if the rules of Regs. Sec. 1.199A-4 are otherwise satisfied.

The final regulations also permit taxpayers who have not reported businesses as aggregated on a tax return to choose later to aggregate businesses on a future tax return. However, taxpayers cannot aggregate businesses on an amended return because that would permit taxpayers the benefit of hindsight. Because many taxpayers were not aware of the aggregation rule, though, for 2018, they may report an aggregation on an amended return.

Performing services as an employee: The final regulations, like the proposed regulations, include a presumption that an individual who was previously treated as an employee and is subsequently treated as an independent contractor while performing substantially the same services for the same employer or a related person will be presumed to still be in the trade or business of performing services as an employee for purposes of Sec. 199A. However, in response to comments, the final regulations were modified to include a three-year lookback rule for this presumption. The individual can rebut the presumption by showing records that corroborate his or her status as a nonemployee.

Specified service trades or businesses: A large part of the preamble to the final regulations was devoted to comments received on SSTBs. Apart from a few clarifications in the definitions, the final regulations did not adopt these comments.

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