IRS Publishes Revised Procedure for Automatic Consent of Accounting Method Changes

September 23, 2008 — 1,835 views  
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The IRS has published sweeping guidance (Rev. Proc. 2008-52) providing new procedures by which a taxpayer may obtain automatic consent to change to a different method of accounting. The revenue procedure clarifies, modifies, amplifies and supersedes Rev. Proc. 2002-9. However, under transition relief offered in Announcement 2008-84, taxpayers can generally use Rev. Proc. 2002-9 through Sept. 15, 2008.

The revenue procedure updates the rules for obtaining automatic consent. It updates what constitutes a “complete application,” makes modifications to scope limitations and revises how to implement a change on a cut-off basis. In addition to consolidating automatic method change procedures that were published after the publication of Rev. Proc. 2002-9, the revenue procedure provides several additional changes in accounting method for which a taxpayer may obtain automatic consent.
Examples of accounting method changes made automatic by Rev. Proc. 2008-52 include the following:

  • Changes to certain UNICAP and inventory methods;
  • Changes for lessor improvements abandoned at termination of a lease;
  • Changes for accounting for disposed, depreciable repairable and reusable spare parts;
  • Changes from the cash method to the accrual method for specific items;
  • Changes to the overall cash method for “specified transportation industry taxpayers”;
  • Treatment of “retainages” under Section 451;
  • Certain changes relating to the treatment of Section 467 rent;
  • Changes relating to deductions for rebates and allowances under Section 461;
  • Changes relating to deductions for self-insured medical benefits; and
  • Changes relating to employee bonuses and vacation pay.

Effective date
Rev. Proc. 2008-52 is effective for applications filed on or after Aug. 18, 2008, for a year of change ending on or after Dec. 31, 2007. If a taxpayer filed a nonautomatic accounting method change, which is now automatic under Rev. Proc. 2008-52, and if that method change request is still pending with the IRS National Office, the taxpayer has the option to request that the IRS National Office treat the request as an automatic method change request. This request must be made prior to the earlier of Sept. 18, 2008, or the date the consent agreement is issued by the IRS.

Next steps
Taxpayers should familiarize themselves with the new rules to properly identify opportunities to file automatic accounting method changes. Specifically, taxpayers who planned to file nonautomatic accounting method changes for the current tax year should consider whether such a change can now be made for an earlier year under the automatic consent provisions. Additionally, those taxpayers with pending nonautomatic accounting method changes should consider the advantages of converting a pending nonautomatic change to an automatic method change.

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