WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued interim guidance explaining how eligible small businesses can take advantage of a new option enabling them to apply part or all of their research credit against their payroll tax liability, instead of their income tax liability. Before 2016, taxpayers could only take the research credit against their income tax liability.

Notice 2017-23, posted today on IRS.gov, provides guidance on a new provision included in the Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes (PATH) Act enacted in December 2015. This new option will be available for the first time to any eligible small business filing its 2016 federal income tax return this tax season. Those who already filed still have time to choose this option.

The option to elect the new payroll tax credit may especially benefit any eligible startup that has little or no income tax liability. To qualify for the new option for the current tax-year, a business must have gross receipts of less than $5 million and could not have had gross receipts prior to 2012.

An eligible small business with qualifying research expenses can choose to apply up to $250,000 of its research credit against its payroll tax liability. An eligible small business chooses this option by filling out Form 6765, Credit for Increasing Research Activities, and attaching it to a timely-filed business income tax return. But under a special rule for tax-year 2016, a small business that failed to choose this option and still wishes to do so, can still make the election by filing an amended return by Dec. 31, 2017. See the notice for further details.

After choosing this option, a small business claims the payroll tax credit by filling out Form 8974, Qualified Small Business Payroll Tax Credit for Increasing Research Activities. This form must be attached to its payroll tax return, for example Form 941, Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return. Further details on how and when to claim the credit are in the notice.

The notice provides interim guidance on controlled groups, the definition of gross receipts, and other issues. The notice also requests public comment on various payroll tax credit issues to be addressed in future guidance. See the notice for details on how and when to submit comments. For more information on the research credit itself, see the instructions to Form 6765.

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Upcoming Tax Dates

April 10 — Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during March, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

April 15 — Individuals *2017 Filing Deadline: 04-17, 2018*
File a 2017 income tax return (Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ) and pay any tax due. If you want an automatic 6 month extension of time to file the return, file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. For more information, see Form 4868. Then, file Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ by 10-15.

April 15 — Corporations *2017 Filing Deadline: 04-17, 2018*
File a 2017 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120) and pay any tax due. Details

April 15 — Individuals
If you are not paying your 2018 income tax through withholding (or will not pay in enough tax during the year that way), pay the first installment of your 2018 estimated tax. Use Form 1040ES.

April 15 — Household Employers
If you paid cash wages of $2,000 or more in 2017 to a household employee, you must file Schedule H Details

April 15 — Corporations
Deposit the first installment of estimated income tax for 2017 Details

April 15 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in March.

April 15 — Household employers
If you paid cash wages of $$2,000 or more in 2017 to a household employee, you must file Schedule H (Form 1040). If you are required to file a federal income tax return (Form 1040), file Schedule H (Form 1040) with the return and report any household employment taxes. Report any federal unemployment (FUTA) tax on Schedule H (Form 1040) if you paid total cash wages of $1,000 or more in any calendar quarter of 2016 or 2017 to household employees. Also, report any income tax you withheld for your household employees.

April 30 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the first quarter of 2018. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full, you have until 05-10 to file the return.

April 30 — Federal unemployment tax.
Deposit the tax owed through 03-if more than $500.

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