Business Losses and NOLs Expanded

May 13, 2020

This alert briefly summarizes the following relief provisions enacted in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted on March 27, 2020.
  • Net operating loss (NOL) carrybacks for losses generated after December 31, 2017
  • Postponement of excess business loss limitation and relief for limitations incurred in 2018 and 2019

Net Operating Losses

Previously, NOLs generated beginning in 2018 were limited to 80% of taxable income computed without regard to any NOL deduction. Any unused NOL was not able to be carried back but could be carried forward indefinitely.

The CARES Act permits individuals with NOLs generated in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2021, to carry back such NOLs five taxable years. Such NOLs not carried back may continue to be carried forward indefinitely. The CARES Act also eliminates the 80% taxable income limitation imposed by the TCJA for taxable years beginning before January 1, 2021.

  • Taxpayers with NOLs generated in 2018 and 2019 may find it advantageous to amend returns prior to those years to carryback NOLs to years with taxable income subject to a 39.6% tax rate.

Excess Business Loss Limitations

Beginning in 2018, net business losses in excess of $500,000 for joint filers ($250,000 for all other taxpayers) were not allowed as a current deduction against other income. These threshold amounts were indexed for inflation and, in 2020, were scheduled to be $518,000 for joint filers ($259,000 for all other taxpayers). The disallowed business losses became a net operating loss applied to subsequent taxable years.
The CARES Act suspends the application of this excess business loss rule for 2020, and retroactively suspends the excess business loss limitation rule for 2018 and 2019. Thus, taxpayers will be allowed to offset their business losses against other income for 2020.