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Business Start-Up Costs -- What's Deductible?


Launching a new business takes hard work -- and money. Costs for market surveys, travel to line up potential distributors and suppliers, advertising, hiring employees, training, and other expenses incurred before a business is officially launched can add up to a substantial amount.

The tax law places certain limitations on tax deductions for start-up expenses.

  • No deduction is available until the business becomes active.
  • Up to $5,000 of accumulated start-up expenses may be deducted in the tax year in which the active business begins. This $5,000 limit is reduced (but not below zero) by the excess of total start-up costs over $50,000.
  • Any remaining start-up expenses may be deducted ratably over the 180-month period beginning with the month in which the active business begins.

Example: Gina spent $20,000 on start-up costs before her new business began on July 1, 2020. In the 2020 tax year, she may deduct $5,000 and the portion of the remaining $15,000 allocable to July through December of 2020 ($15,000/180 × 6 = $500), a total of $5,500. The remaining $14,500 may be deducted ratably over the remaining 174 months.

Instead of deducting start-up costs, a business may elect to capitalize them (treat them as an asset on the balance sheet). Deductions for "organization expenses" -- such as legal and accounting fees for services related to forming a corporation or partnership -- are subject to similar rules.