Eye on Retail: Tax law glitch puts strain on store renovations
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Eye on Retail: Tax law glitch puts strain on store renovations

BY Marianne Wilson

A drafting error in the new tax law is causing some retailers and restaurant owners to delay their renovation and improvement plans.

As written, the law allows companies to write off renovation costs (made to non-residential real estate) over 39 years. The authors of the tax law had intended for the businesses to be able to write off the full costs of the improvements in one year.

A group of more than 100 retailers, restaurants and trade groups, including the National Retail Federation and Retail Industry Leaders Association, have urged Congress to take “quick action” to make two technical corrections to law.

“The delay in correcting these provisions has caused economic hardship for some retailers and restaurants and is also delaying investments across the economy that impact the communities in which these companies are doing business,” the businesses and groups said in a letter sent in June to the top Republicans and Democrats on the congressional tax-writing committees.

One of the technical corrections sought by the group has to do with the renovation write- off.

“This very large difference in the after-tax cost of making improvements is causing a delay in some store and restaurant remodeling projects, as well as causing some retailers to decline opportunities to purchase or lease new store locations that would require substantial improvements,” the retailers and restaurants stated in the letter.

The second correction is related to the effective date of a provision that generally bans businesses from carrying back net operating losses to prior years. Lawmakers had intended for the ban to take effect for taxable years starting after Dec. 31, 2017. But the law instead says it applies for taxable years ending after Dec. 31, 2017.

Republican leaders have acknowledged the mistakes, but there is no quick fix in sight at this point as the corrections would require consensus across the aisles.

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