Tag: “aircraft tax law”

IRS Federal Excise Tax Surprise – New Rules For Aircraft Management Companies?

IRS Federal Excise Tax
IRS excise tax & aircraft management companies:  and you thought the catering was exempt

The IRS’ new view of federal excise tax on aircraft management services in unwelcome indeed. To recap, in an IRS Chief Counsel Memorandum Re Federal Excise Tax and Aircraft Management Companies, the IRS is taking the position that aircraft services such as hiring and providing pilots and management services, even for part 91 aircraft, are “amounts paid” for “transportation services” and therefore subject to federal excise tax.  This in essence has the potential to raise general aviation services costs by 7.5%, a federal excise tax surprise that neither aircraft management companies nor aircraft owners need in this environment.

It has never been disputed that ” amounts paid” for commercial flights under Parts 121 or 135 are subject to excise tax as “taxable transportation”, and the price and availability of these flights reflect this.  Part 91 owners and operators make a conscious decision to assume more risk in retaining “operational control” of their flights and pay management companies for collateral services in making pilots, fuel and services available.  We could be left under the IRS’ new policy where a private aircraft owner would have to pay excise tax for flights over which he still has full legal liability.  This is clearly a surprise when it comes to federal excise tax, for the owners and aircraft management company alike.

Unfortunately there is also a “gotcha” factor here.  One might conclude that the IRS’ apparent aggressiveness with respect to auditing, and potentially assessing, federal excise tax against aircraft management companies is designed to catch us off guard.  There are a couple of problems with this.  First, a Chief Counsel opinion details the Service’s interpretation of existing law.  It is not equivalent to the Internal Revenue Code, regulations or Tax Court decisions, and therefore forms a questionable basis upon which to set aircraft management companies up for formal federal excise tax audits.  Second, if in time aircraft management companies are deemed to be receiving “amounts paid for taxable transportation” for support services, the industry must be given some reasonable opportunity to adjust to this without facing retroactive application of a brand-new interpretation along with the interest and penalties that go with it.

Call me for a free phone consultation if you think you may be subject to the new federal excise tax rules.  877.771.1131

A Bad Idea In Connecticut

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy wants to close the state deficit by ending tax exemptions on repairs and services to aircraft, and by adding a yearly registration fee to planes stored in the state. This is problematic for general aviation, and for Connecticut for that matter, for several reasons. First, Connecticut exempts the purchase and storage of aircraft exceeding 6,000 pounds CTW from sales and use tax, and exempts repairs and the associated parts sales from the same. This has been a boon for Connecticut when it comes to New Yorkers, among others, looking for an economical place to store and service their aircraft, which, of course, can be moved elsewhere much more easily than a yoga studio. The Governor might also consider revisiting the geography of the Northeast. Larger aircraft owners, weighing the costs and benefits of storing their planes in other states, have other alternatives within the same geographical area. A slightly higher inconvenience may outweigh the dramatically increased costs of doing business in Connecticut. The Governor should look beyond the next fiscal year in evaluating what might be the long term impact on the state of eliminating these popular and useful exemptions.

Bonus Depreciation Extended

President Obama last week signed the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 into law, extending two key aircraft-friendly tax provisions for another year.  This legislation extends the “bonus depreciation” provisions that have been in place for some time that allow the taxpayer to deduct up to 50% of the purchase price of the plane in that year.  This legislation will also modify the separate “expensing” provision that allows up to an additional $50,000.00 deduction.  What remains of the plane’s basis is then further depreciated under the accelerated, five year, MACRS recovery period.  Put together, these provisions allow an aircraft purchaser (including fractional interest purchasers) to deduct the majority of the purchase price of within the first two years.

The taxpayer must qualify for these benefits, and there are some limitations: 

  • These provisions apply only to noncommercial aircraft predominantly used in a trade or business.  Personal use is accounted for separately and should be undertaken with professional tax advice.
  • The expensing allowance, under the new law, phases out dollar for dollar for aircraft over $2M. 
  • Bonus depreciation is permitted only for new aircraft, whose “first use” is in the taxpayer’s hands.  Used or refurbished aircraft do not qualify.  Fractional interests are considered “first used” by the taxpayer at the time of his purchase.
  • You must enter a written binding contract for his purchase of the plane and place a non-refundable deposit with the seller by the end of this year.  You would have to begin using the aircraft by the end of next year.
  • Depreciation deductions are “recaptured” when the aircraft is sold.  This can be deferred for some time either by continued ownership or by exchanging the fractional interest for another at a later time.  The real tax savings is the time value of the money not paid in taxes during this period.

Ari Good, Esq.

General Aviation Caucus Lobbies For New York GA Competitiveness

New York, like Florida, may be beginning to draw back from policies that punish general aviation in the state. Aircraft buyers routinely go to Connecticut, which does not charge sales tax on larger aircraft, in order to save considerable sales tax upon purchase. While aircraft rentals are subject to use tax when returned and based in New York, aircraft owners still have the option to base aircraft nearby. This results in a loss of revenue in the form of annual inspections, hangar leasing and other activity crucial to the economy of New York.