Tax Accounting for Construction

With the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), contractors with average annual gross receipts less than $26 million for the three prior taxable years are now considered “small contractors” and are not required to use the percentage of completion method (PCM) for years beginning after 2017. This modification will certainly allow more taxpayers the opportunity to defer taxable income, since prior to TCJA the gross receipts threshold was $10 million.

Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 460(f) defines “long-term contract” as “any contract for the manufacture, building, installation or construction of property if such contract is not completed within the taxable year in which such contract is entered into.” With all the various types of contractors and possible circumstances, it’s important to understand how to properly apply the provisions of IRC 460 to your particular situation.

Simply stated, if the construction contract meets the definition of long-term, contractors are required to use the PCM to compute taxable income. While this is a general requirement, exceptions do exist for home construction contracts or if the entity is classified as a small contractor: 1) the taxpayer estimates that the contract will be completed within two years, and 2) average annual gross receipts do not exceed $26 million.

Contractors who don’t meet the above exceptions have another method to defer taxable income with an election under IRC Section 460(b)(5), under which they can delay recognition of gross profit from long-term contracts accounted for under the PCM until the first tax year in which the contract is more than 10% complete.

For the recognition of contract losses, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and the IRC handle things differently. GAAP requires the contractor to report the total loss on a contract as soon as it’s evident the loss will occur. The IRC, on the other hand, requires taxpayers to recognize the loss as the job is completed (if on the completed contract method) or based on the percent complete (if on the PCM).

A warning: owners of S corporations and partnerships who are not required to use the PCM may owe alternative minimum tax (AMT). IRC Section 56(a)(3) states that the PCM must be used for long-term contracts for alternative minimum tax purposes. For C corporations, the repeal of the corporate AMT eliminated this consideration.

It’s important to know that recent changes triggered by tax reform may change a company’s ability to defer income for tax purposes. For assistance in determining whether your company could benefit from these changes, please contact a member of the Schneider Downs Construction Industry Group.

You’ve heard our thoughts… We’d like to hear yours

The Schneider Downs Our Thoughts On blog exists to create a dialogue on issues that are important to organizations and individuals. While we enjoy sharing our ideas and insights, we’re especially interested in what you may have to say. If you have a question or a comment about this article – or any article from the Our Thoughts On blog – we hope you’ll share it with us. After all, a dialogue is an exchange of ideas, and we’d like to hear from you. Email us at

Material discussed is meant for informational purposes only, and it is not to be construed as investment, tax, or legal advice. Please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, this information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.

© 2020 Schneider Downs. All rights-reserved. All content on this site is property of Schneider Downs unless otherwise noted and should not be used without written permission.

our thoughts on

Treasury Issues Final FDII Regulations
Ohio Sales Tax Holiday 2020
Use It or Lose It…Maybe: Gift Planning Considerations in an Unpredictable Election Year
Changes to Form 1023, Application for Tax Exemption under Section 501(c)(3)
Body Temperature Monitoring and Potential Coronavirus Detection
PA Unemployment Compensation Covid-19 Relief

Register to receive our weekly newsletter with our most recent columns and insights.

Have a question? Ask us!

We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a note, and we’ll respond to you as quickly as possible.

Ask us

contact us

Map of Pittsburgh Office

One PPG Place, Suite 1700
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
p:412.261.3644     f:412.261.4876

Map of Columbus Office

65 East State Street, Suite 2000
Columbus, OH 43215
p:614.621.4060     f:614.621.4062

Map of Washington Office
Washington, D.C.

1660 International Drive, Suite 600
McLean, VA 22102