Limitations on The California Pass-Through Entity Tax

by | Dec 7, 2021 | Tax

Limitations on The California Pass-Through Entity Tax

The recently enacted Assembly Bill 150, which established the California Pass-Through Entity Tax Credit (“CA PTET”), currently includes some limitations on the use of the credit that greatly reduces the possible benefits of making the election.  For information on who qualifies for the CA PTET, you can view our initial memo here.

As clarified by the Franchise Tax Board, the CA PTET does not reduce the amount of state tax due below the tentative minimum tax (“TMT”).  The California TMT is calculated as California adjusted taxable income, plus or minus preference items, less the exemption amount, and multiplied by 7%.  Accordingly, the CA PTET will not reduce state tax below the 7% TMT even if the taxpayer is not required to pay alternative minimum tax.

California taxpayers with an effective tax rate below the 7% TMT will not receive any benefit from the CA PTET.  The credit is non-refundable, and any excess credit may be carried forward only five years. 

California taxpayers with an effective tax rate above the 7% TMT may only receive partial benefit from the CA PTET, which will depend on the amount of income from pass-through entities and all other sources.  To illustrate this limitation, we’ll use the following examples (for simplicity we are ignoring progressive rates, mental health tax, itemized deductions, and other exemptions):

  • Example A – an individual taxpayer with $1 million of distributive net income from a pass-through entity and no other income will receive a CA PTET credit of $93,000 ($1M x 9.3% CA PTET rate). The regular tax liability is $123,000 ($1M x 12.3% tax rate) and the TMT is $70,000 ($1M x 7% tax rate). The taxpayer can only use $53,000 of the CA PTET ($123,000 tax less $70,000 TMT) with the remaining $40,000 carried forward to next year.
  • Example B – the facts are the same as in Example A, except the taxpayer has non-pass-through entity income of an additional $1 million for a total of $2 million taxable income. The CA PTET credit is $93,000 ($1M x 9.3% CA PTET rate). The regular tax liability is $246,000 ($2M x 12.3% tax rate) and the TMT is $140,000 ($2M x 7% tax rate). The taxpayer can use the full $93,000 of the CA PTET in the current tax year ($246,000 tax less $140,000 TMT = $106,000 > $93,000).

In each of the above examples, the federal taxable pass-through income is reduced by the CA PTET if paid before the end of the taxable year, thereby generating additional federal tax savings at the owner level for partnerships and S-corporations.

An exception to the CA TMT:  When a California taxpayer’s gross business receipts from all sources combined are less than $1 million, the net business income is not subject to the 7% TMT.  In this scenario, only the non-business income will be subject to the 7% TMT, and the taxpayer may be able to utilize the CA PTET credit in full.  The $1 million limits for this exception is the same for both single and married-filing-joint taxpayers.  The $1 million limits is a cliff, meaning it does not have a phase-out range. 

  • Example C – a taxpayer is the sole shareholder of an S corporation. She has $100,000 of W-2 income.  The taxpayer’s share of gross receipts from the S- corporation is $950,000, the net pass-through income is $250,000 for CA purposes, and the CA PTET is 9.3% of the pass-through income, or $23,250.  Because the taxpayer’s share of business gross receipts is less than $1 million, the $250,000 of business net income is not subject to the CA TMT.  The total CA tax on $350,000 of total income is approximately $30,000.  The TMT is 7% of the $100,000 of wages, which is $7,000.  Only $23,000 ($30,000 – $7,000) of the CA tax can be offset by the PTET credit.  $23,000 of the PTET Credit is utilized, $7,000 is the CA tax owed, and $250 of PTET Credit is carried forward up to 5 years.  The federal taxable pass-through income from the S-corporation is reduced by the $23,250 PTET, if it was paid by the S-corporation by December 31, saving the taxpayer approximately $8,000 in federal tax.

For S-corporations with multiple shareholders making the election, further consideration should be made on any impact the CA PTET will have on shareholder distributions. 

S-corporations could potentially violate their S-election if all shareholders do not consent to make the election, and possibly resulting in disproportionate distributions. 

Furthermore, another possible limitation of the CA PTET relates to nonresidents. There is currently no provision to reduce the non-resident withholding requirements on electing qualified entities below the required 7% TMT, which may again lead to excess credit carryover.

Careful tax planning should be performed with respect to which pass-through entities and owners make or consent to the election and the impact of the TMT on the CA PTET at the owner level.  Once made, the election is irrevocable for that year and is binding on all consenting owners. 

The number of eligible entities, amount of distributive net income, sources of other income, and any other factors should all be considered for the effective use of the CA PTET election.  Additionally, should the current version of the Build Back Better Act pass, the state and local tax deduction cap will increase from $10,000 to $80,000 retroactive to the 2021 tax year, further diminishing the benefit of the CA PTET workaround to the deduction limitation for owners of pass-through entities.

If you have any questions about the California pass-through entity tax and how it may impact you or your business, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for assistance.  

Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is intended solely to provide general guidance on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use. In no event will Fishman, Block + Diamond, or its partners, employees, or agents, be liable to you or anyone else for any decision made or action taken in reliance on the information in this website or for any consequential, special, or similar damages, even if advised of the possibility of such damages.