My father was a tax executive for a New York City bank. After an hour of trying to decipher what the details of the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 could mean for CIOs, I am glad I chose a career in tech publishing.
For CIOs, the bill offers key provisions intended to stimulate business investment by accelerating the first-year depreciation they can claim on certain assets purchased after May 5, 2003, and before Jan. 1, 2005, to 50 percent, up from the current level of 30 percent.
The qualified property list of those assets is long and eclectic. It includes off-road trucks, breeding hogs, taxis, private aircraft, copiers and, anachronistically, typewriters. And in the three-, five- and seven-year property depreciation category are items near and dear to the hearts and budgets of CIOs?namely, computers and peripheral equipment, computer-based equipment for telephone central office switching, cell phones and furniture.
What about software? That’s in the bill too, but it is covered in a less straightforward manner than the previously mentioned items. The bill offers the 50 percent first-year depreciation allowance for off-the-shelf software, a category defined as software readily available for purchase by the general public. However, if a CIO were considering the purchase of a CRM software package for deployment to all or a substantial part of the business, that software purchase would not qualify for the 50 percent write-off.
So it seems you could upgrade 1,000 seats of Microsoft Office and take the 50 percent accelerated-depreciation benefit because you could buy Office off the shelf at a retailer but not if you bought a major ERP package from SAP for your enterprise (after all, you couldn’t purchase it at Wal-Mart).
One clever executive I spoke with asked this: Could a CIO take a 50 percent accelerated-depreciation charge if he bought Oracle 10g and rolled it out to a 10,000-employee division of a company of 100,000 employees? Hmm, good question. Would one-tenth of a firm’s employee base be perceived as a “substantial” portion of the business?
If you have read this far, you are now at least aware of this one-year bonus opportunity. How does it apply to your company? Best to get on the phone with your company’s tax attorney right away. It could be a great way to stretch tight budgets in 2004.