Section 174 R&E Amortization

Request Enhanced R&D Tax Credit Study to Offset Amortized Tax Liability


What Is Section 174 R&E?

Section 174 of the U.S. Tax Code defines the treatment of Research & Experimental (R&E) expenditures. This section was made a part of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) in 1954 and allowed for the deduction or amortization of direct and indirect R&E expenditures including:

  • Direct costs, including Section 41 costs
  • Occupancy costs: Rent for office spaces or Research facilities
  • Equipment rental costs
  • Overhead utility costs (heat, light, telephone bills etc.)
  • Facilities costs and depreciation
  • Travel expenditures incurred for R&E purposes
  • Dues and publication expenses incurred for R&E purposes
  • Attorney & filing fees for a patent application

How Will The Recent Changes To Section 174 Impact Tax Liability?

Taxpayers with R&E expenditures and or software development costs will no longer be able to deduct those costs in the year incurred but will be required to amortize them over no less than 5 years.  Section 174 was amended by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) to require amortization of R&E expenditures paid or incurred for tax years beginning after December 31, 2021. For those tax years beginning after December 31, 2021, Section 174 will require taxpayers to amortize specific R&E expenditures over a period of five years for costs attributable to domestic research, or a period of 15 years for costs attributable to foreign research. Also, all software development costs are now automatically treated as R&E expenditures and must be amortized in accordance with the recent changes.   

Sample Industries Impacted By Section 174 Amortization

  • Software Development
  • Manufacturing
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Custom Machine Building
  • Oil & Gas
  • Electronics
  • Chemicals
  • Semiconductors
  • Financial Services
  • Heavy Equipment
  • Plastics
  • Metals Processing
  • Automotive
  • Furniture
  • Video Game Development
  • Agriculture
  • A&E
  • Medical Devices
  • Aerospace
  • Cosmetics
  • Food & Beverage
  • Consumer Products
  • FinTech

Download our Section 174 Amortization Quick Start Guide

Download our Section 174 Amortization Quick Start Guide to help guide your clients and prepare.

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Do I Need A Section 174 Study?

The IRC and related guidance around Section 174 is vague and does not provide an exhaustive list of all costs that could be considered research and experimental under Section 174. Examples of R&E costs include gross salaries and other payroll costs, overhead, heating, lighting, power, office supplies, laboratory materials, and software licenses used in R&E activities.

To assure compliance with current tax law, Source Advisors assists taxpayers in identifying departments and cost centers where Section 174 R&E activities are taking place.

What Is The Difference Between Section 174 R&E Expenditures And Section 41 R&D Tax Credit Expenses?

An R&D credit calculation is claimed for direct research expenses such as wages, supplies, and contractor expenses. Section 174 includes these amounts but is also expanded to include certain indirect research costs such as facility costs, which are excluded from the R&D credit calculation.

In other words, all R&D tax credit expenses will qualify as a Section 174 expenditure, however not all Section 174 expenditures will attain the level of qualification needed to claim the R&D tax credit. Many companies will therefore have Section 174 expenditures even if they do not claim the R&D tax credit.

Planning Opportunities

Multinational businesses that incur research expenses in different countries should identify not only the money spent, but also the location where it was spent in order to properly track whether the expenses are subject to the five-year versus 15-year amortization period. The new amortization requirements may incentivize taxpayers to increase their US-based R&D activities, since these expenses may be amortized over 5-years rather than the 15-year requirement for foreign R&D expenses. These reviews may also identify opportunities to amend recent tax returns to capture unclaimed R&D tax credits.

While taxpayers will still receive the benefit for the R&E costs that are paid or incurred, these costs can no longer be fully deducted in the current tax year. The required amortization will create a timing difference that will impact cash flow. For example, if a taxpayer incurred $1,000,000 in Section 174 R&E expenditures in the 2022 tax year, the current year deduction will be $100,000 (i.e., 5 year amortization with half year convention), effectively creating a 90% reduction in deductions for 2022. This reduction would be even greater for foreign R&E costs.


Is a legislative fix to the Section 174 changes coming? When should I file my returns?

Due to bipartisan support in Congress to amend the Section 174 changes, we are optimistic that a fix will be implemented however the timing is uncertain. Each taxpayer should be mindful of estimated tax payments that are due with an extension.

Can I stop claiming Section 41 R&D tax credits to avoid Section 174 amortization?

You are required to amortize any research and experimental costs that fall under the broader definition of R&E under Section 174 regardless of whether you claim the R&D tax credit. Section 174 is independent of Section 41 so even if a taxpayer stops claiming Section 41 tax credits, they still do not avoid amortization. Given the increase in tax liability from the amortization, claiming the R&D tax credit is one way to offset some of this additional tax burden.

I am a software developer, how do the revisions to Section 174 affect me?

All costs paid or incurred in connection with software development are now considered Section 174 R&E expenditures and are required to be capitalized and amortized over not less than 5 years.

Is there a small business taxpayer exception or any other exceptions?

There are no exceptions to the Section 174 changes for small businesses.