Hey everyone,

Was just starting the tax process for 2022 and found out about the changes that have been made to Section 174 that take effect this year. Essentially, all R&E expenses must now be amortized over 5 years (instead of taking them as a regular full deduction in the year in which they are incurred), and on top of that all “software development” is now an R&E expense. [1][2]

This seems like a disaster for any bootstrapped software company. As an example, if you make $100k in income, and spend $90k making the software, at first glance you've got a successful company bringing in a 10% profit margin. Previously, you would have just paid tax on that $10k in profit. Makes sense.

Under these new rules, the US actually says “that $90k you spent to make the software has to be spread over 5 years, and you can actually only take 10% of it in the first year.” Suddenly you've gone from a profit of $10k to a “profit” of $91k for tax purposes. Even at a 30% tax rate (which isn't even close to the top rate in the US), you're staring down a $27k tax bill that you're somehow supposed to pay out of the $10k in actual cash you have left on hand.

To be clear, you will eventually get the taxes you pay back over the next 5 years. But how are bootstrapped companies without access to large capital reserves or investment supposed to come up with the money to pay these tax bills while they wait it out? For every dollar you spend on making software, you've now got to have 30+ cents in reserve just to pay the tax bill for the year!

I am completely flabbergasted as to how this was thought to be a good idea…it seems like it drastically increases the cost of starting a bootstrapped software company in the US, which is just terrible policy in general.

Was just curious — is this interpretation what others are hearing from their own tax professionals? Is it affecting others and if so how are you dealing with it?

[1] https://rsmus.com/insights/services/business-tax/looming-required-capitalization-of-section-174-expenditures.html

[2] https://www.taxnotes.com/research/federal/usc26/174