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

February 10 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during January, report them to your employer Details

February 15 — All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2017 Details

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

February 15 — All employers
Begin withholding income tax from the pay of any employee who claimed exemption from withholding in 2017, but did not give you Form W4 to continue the exemption this year.

February 15 — Individuals
If you claimed exemption from income tax withholding last year on the Form W-4, you must file a new Form W-04 by this date to continue your exemption for another year Details

February 19 — Everyone
Federal Holiday (Washington's Birthday) Details

February 28 — All businesses
File information returns (for example, Forms 1099) for certain payments you made during 2017.

February 28 — Payers of gambling winnings.
File Form 1096 along with Copy A of all the Forms W2G you issued for 2017. If you file Forms W2G electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to 03-31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains 01-31.

February 28 — All employers
File Form W3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, along with Copy A of all the Forms W2 you issued for 2017. If you file Forms W2 electronically, your due date for filing them with the SSA will be extended to 03-31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains 01-31.

February 28 — Large food and beverage establishment employers
File Form 8027, Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips. Use Form 8027T, Transmittal of Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips, to summarize and transmit Forms 8027 if you have more than one establishment. If you file Forms 8027 electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to 03-31.

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