Frequently Asked Questions

Guidelines for Citing BEA Information | ID: 1002 | Created: Aug-05-2011
Answer

How do the economic stimulus acts impact NIPA Corporate Profits?

Over the past several years several economic stimulus acts have become law. These acts have often contained bonus depreciation provisions and higher ceilings for small business expensing. For example, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (or “ATRA”) provides for 50 percent bonus depreciation for qualified investments placed in service during 2013.  ATRA also raises the ceiling for small business expensing under Internal Revenue Code Section 179 to $500,000 through 2013. The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 (or “TRUIRJCA”) allowed 100 percent bonus depreciation from September 2010 through December 2011 and 50 percent bonus depreciation in 2012.1

BEA’s estimates of profits from current production (“corporate profits with inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments”) are not affected by these tax acts, because profits from current production do not depend on the depreciation-accounting practices used for Federal income tax purposes. BEA’s measure of current production profits reflects economic accounting practices in which depreciation is based on an estimate of the reduction in the value of fixed capital used in the production process.

BEA begins with financial and tax based data when it derives its estimates of profits from current production. It then removes the effects of stimulus acts by the capital consumption adjustment (CCAdj). The CCAdj is the difference between the depreciation consistent with the tax code and the economic depreciation that underlies BEA’s measure of profits from current production.

BEA also publishes “profits before tax” and “profits after tax” in which tax depreciation has not yet been adjusted to an economic accounting basis. Stimulus acts provisions increase the depreciation that corporations can claim and thus reduce profits before taxes by the same amount.  The reduction in profits before tax leads to reductions in taxes on corporate income and profits after tax.  To offset the effect of these stimulus acts on profits from current production, BEA raises its estimate of CCAdj by the same amount. As a result, changes in current production profits are not affected by the start of these acts.

Similarly, when stimulus act provisions expire or diminish (as they did in the first quarters of 2012 and 2014), the depreciation that corporations can claim for tax purposes is reduced.  Because the deductible amount summed across these years and future tax years must be equal to the cost of the qualifying property, accelerated deductions in earlier years result in reduced deductions in future years. This reduction in allowed depreciation leads to increases in profits before tax, taxes on corporate income, and profits after tax, and an offsetting decrease in the CCAdj. The decrease in the CCAdj ensures that profits from current production are not impacted by the expiration of allowable depreciation from the stimulus acts. Accordingly, changes in current production profits that occur in quarters when the stimulus acts expire are not affected by the expiration of these acts.

 

1 In addition to ATRA and TRUIRJCA, other stimulus acts include: the Job Creation and Worker Assistance Act of 2002 (see April 2002 Survey of Current Business), the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (see July 2003 Survey of Current Business), the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 (see June 2008 Survey of Current Business), and the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010. The effects of later acts are net of offsetting bonus depreciation that was claimed in earlier years. For detailed data, see the table "Net Effects of the Tax Acts of 2002, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012 on Selected Measures of Corporate Profits". BEA estimates are based on data from the Office of Tax Analysis (OTA) of the Department of the Treasury and other source data. Detailed information about Treasury's bonus depreciation calculations is available in OTA's working paper entitled "Corporate Response to Accelerated Tax Depreciation: Bonus Depreciation for Tax Years 2002-2004".

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