Losses can be hard to take – so if you think your S corporation will show a loss for 2016, now’s the time to plan to make sure you’ll get the full tax benefit.
The problem. The amount of the business loss you can deduct on your individual income tax return is limited to your basis in your S corporation stock and certain corporate debt. This is true even if the loss reported to you on Schedule K-1 is greater than your basis.
Here’s how basis works. Typically, stock basis in an S corporation begins with the capital contribution you make to get the company started. Note that when you receive stock as a gift, an inheritance, or in place of compensation, your initial basis is calculated differently.
At the end of each taxable year, your stock basis is adjusted to reflect your business’s operating results. Taxable income increases your basis, while losses reduce it. Basis is also increased by capital you put into your company and reduced by amounts you withdraw, such as distributions.
After your stock basis reaches zero, you may be able to deduct additional losses, up to the extent of your debt basis. That’s the basis you have in loans you make to your company. However, once your stock and debt basis are both reduced to zero, losses incurred are suspended, which means you get no current tax benefit. You can generally take suspended losses in future years, when you again have basis.
The solution. You can increase your basis – and your ability to take losses – by adding capital or making loans to your business.