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Understanding The Tax Implications Of Loan Guarantees For Your Business

Imagine you’re faced with the decision to guarantee a loan for your corporation, either by choice or request. Prior to committing to becoming a guarantor, endorser, or indemnitor for a debt tied to your closely held corporation, it’s crucial to understand the potential tax implications. Should your organization fail to meet its loan obligations, and you’re then responsible for paying off the principal or interest as per the loan guarantee agreement, being unprepared for the situation is something you’d want to avoid.

A Business Bad Debt

If you’re compelled to make good on the obligation, the payment of principal or interest in discharge of the obligation generally results in a bad debt deduction. This may be either a business or a nonbusiness bad debt deduction. If it’s a business bad debt, it’s deductible against ordinary income. A business bad debt can be either totally or partly worthless. If it’s a nonbusiness bad debt, it’s deductible as a short-term capital loss, which is subject to certain limitations on deductions of capital losses. A nonbusiness bad debt is deductible only if it’s totally worthless.

To be treated as a business bad debt, the guarantee must be closely related to your trade or business. If the reason for guaranteeing the corporation loan is to protect your job, the guarantee is considered closely related to your trade or business as an employee. But employment must be the dominant motive. If your annual salary exceeds your investment in the corporation, this generally shows that the dominant motive for the guarantee was to protect your job. On the other hand, if your investment in the corporation substantially exceeds your annual salary, that’s evidence that the guarantee was primarily to protect your investment rather than your job.

Except in the case of job guarantees, it may be difficult to show the guarantee was closely related to your trade or business. You’d have to show that the guarantee was related to your business as a promoter, or that the guarantee was related to some other trade or business separately carried on by you.

If the reason for guaranteeing your corporation’s loan isn’t closely related to your trade or business and you’re required to pay off the loan, you can take a nonbusiness bad debt deduction if you show that your reason for the guarantee was to protect your investment, or you entered the guarantee transaction with a profit motive.

More Rules

In addition to satisfying the above requirements, a business or nonbusiness bad debt is deductible only if you meet these three requirements:

  1. You have a legal duty to make the guaranty payment (although there’s no requirement that a legal action be brought against you).
  2. The guaranty agreement was entered into before the debt became worthless.
  3. You received reasonable consideration (not necessarily cash or property) for entering into the guaranty agreement.

Any payment you make on a loan you guaranteed is deductible as a bad debt in the year you make it, unless the agreement (or local law) provides for a right of subrogation against the corporation. If you have this right, or some other right to demand payment from the corporation, you can’t take a bad debt deduction until the rights become partly or totally worthless.

These are only some of the possible tax consequences of guaranteeing a loan to your closely held corporation. To learn all the implications in your loan guarantees, consult with us.

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