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Finance Op-Ed: Claim the "Bad Business Debt Deduction" for 2023 Tax Return

By Aman Verma

If your business having trouble collecting payments from clients, you might be able to claim a bad debt deduction on your tax return. But you must be able to show that you've made a “reasonable” effort to collect the debt.

Requirements:

First, a cash-basis taxpayer may claim a business bad debt deduction only if the amount that's owed was previously included in gross income.

Second, a business must establish that the debt is legitimate and can't be recovered from the debtor. To this end, as mentioned, you must make a reasonable effort to collect the amount that's due.

This doesn't necessarily mean you have to file a lawsuit against the debtor. But you can't just make a single phone call either.

Give it your best shot. You might actually be able to collect the debt! But if you can't, you'll have put yourself in a position to potentially claim a bad debt deduction.


Partially or Totally Worthless

Often, the specific charge-off method (also called the direct write-off method) is used for writing off bad debts. In this case, you can deduct business bad debts that became either partially or totally worthless during the year.

For tax purposes, partially and totally worthless are defined as follows:

Partially worthless. The deduction is limited to the amount charged off on your books. You don't have to charge off and deduct your partially worthless debts annually, so you can postpone this to a later year. However, you can't deduct any part of a debt after the year it becomes totally worthless.

Totally worthless. If a debt becomes totally worthless in the current tax year, you can deduct the entire amount (less any amount deducted in an earlier tax year when the debt was partially worthless).

Note that you don't have to make an actual charge-off on your books to claim a bad debt deduction for a totally worthless debt. But if you don't record a charge-off and the IRS later rules the debt is only partially worthless, you won't be allowed a deduction for the debt in that tax year. Reason: A deduction of a partially worthless bad debt is limited to the amount actually charged off.

Time Is Short

If you haven't started your collection efforts yet but hope to claim a business bad debt deduction for 2023, time is short. So, spring into action now. For instance, you might start collection efforts through phone and email contacts. If that doesn't work, you may want to follow up with a series of letters or even hire a collection agency. Finally, if all else fails, contact the office about the prospects of claiming a business bad debt deduction on your 2023 returns.

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