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What Are Deferred Tax Assets?

what are deferred tax assets?

When looking into the net worth of a business or individual, one of the first couple of things we look at are assets and liabilities. Assets are resources or properties owned by an individual, organization, or entity that have value. They can be used to generate future economic benefits. Real estate, vehicles, cash, inventory, intellectual property, software and licenses are assets. Deferred tax assets, on the other hand, are items that can be used to lower a tax liability. Here we will review what a deferred tax asset is and how it works. 

Financial Reporting vs. Tax Reporting 

Before diving into deferred tax assets, it’s important to first understand how financial reporting differs from tax reporting. Financial reporting tracks information through balance sheets, income statements, and statements of cash flows. These statements give stakeholders a good idea of a company’s financial position, performance, and cash flow. Tax reporting, on the other hand, involves calculating and reporting a business’s taxable income and tax liability to the relevant tax authorities. 

Financial reporting focuses on the accrual basis of accounting. Revenues and expenses are recognized when earned or incurred, regardless of when cash is received or paid. It aims to provide a comprehensive and long-term view of the financial performance and position of a company. Tax reporting generally follows specific rules related to the timing of revenue and expense recognition for tax purposes. Depending on the tax laws, revenue and expenses may be recognized differently from financial reporting. For example, certain expenses may be deductible for tax purposes when paid, even if they are not yet recognized as expenses under financial reporting. 

What is a deferred tax asset? 

A deferred tax asset is an item on a balance sheet that was created by overpaying taxes or paying it off early. It usually represents a difference between the company’s internal accounting and taxes owed. If taxes are not yet recognized in an income statement, sometimes because of the accounting period used, a deferred tax asset can emerge. Another example would be how a company depreciates its assets. Changing the method or the rate of depreciation can result in overpayment of taxes. 

Why do deferred tax assets exist? 

Deferred tax assets allow individuals and businesses to reduce their taxable income in the future. One simple example would be a loss carryover. Since businesses are able to use a loss to reduce their taxable income in later years, the loss can essentially be viewed as an asset. Deferred tax assets never expire. That said, they can be used whenever it’s most convenient for the business. This is as long as they are not applied to past tax filings.  

How are deferred tax assets calculated? 

Calculating a deferred tax asset can vary depending on the type of asset. For example, let’s assume a business uses a depreciation rate of 20% for tax purposes, but 15% for their own accounting purposes. If their taxable income is $10,000, they would pay $2,000 (20% of $10,000) to the appropriate taxing authority. However, the taxes on their income statement would be $1,500 (15% of $10,000). The difference in actual tax paid and the tax reported on the income statement is a deferred tax asset on their balance sheet, or $500 ($2,000 – $1,500).  

In another example, there may be some expenses that a business records on their income statement but not on their tax statement because they are not able to. This would result in more taxes actually paid and a deferred tax asset on the balance sheet.  

Should I have deferred tax assets? 

Deferred tax assets represent tax benefits that can be used to offset taxes owed in the future. It’s important to note that deferred tax assets are also not always guaranteed. If a company experiences financial difficulties or does not generate enough taxable income in the future, the deferred tax asset may not be used. Additionally, deferred tax assets must be periodically reviewed to ensure that they are still valid and should not be written off. It goes without saying that deferred tax assets can get very complicated. However, Optima Tax Relief has over a decade of experience helping taxpayers with the toughest tax situations. 

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