You figure a corporation's taxable income by subtracting its
allowable deductions from its income on page 1 of Form 1120 or
1120-A. This section discusses special rules that may apply to
the following corporations.
- Any corporation whose deductions for the year are more than
- A closely held corporation.
- A personal service corporation.
Net Operating Losses
A corporation generally figures and deducts a net operating loss
(NOL) the same way an individual, estate, or trust does. The same
carryback and carryforward periods apply, and the same sequence
applies when the corporation carries two or more NOLs to the same
year. For more information on these general rules, see Publication 536,
Net Operating Losses (NOLs) for Individuals, Estates, and
A corporation's NOL generally differs from other NOLs in the
- A corporation can take different deductions when figuring an
- A corporation must make different modifications to its
taxable income in the carryback or carryforward year when figuring how
much of the NOL is used and how much is carried forward to the next
A corporation also uses different forms when claiming an NOL
deduction from those used by individuals, estates, and trusts.
The following discussions explain these differences.
Figuring the NOL
A corporation figures an NOL in the same way it figures taxable
income. It starts with its gross income and subtracts its deductions.
If its deductions are more than its gross income, the corporation has
However, the following rules for figuring the NOL either limit what
the corporation can deduct or permit deductions not ordinarily
- A corporation cannot deduct any NOL carrybacks or carryovers
from other years.
- A corporation can take the deduction for dividends received,
explained later, without regard to the aggregate limits (based on
taxable income) that normally apply.
- A corporation can figure the deduction for dividends paid on
certain preferred stock of public utilities without limiting it to its
taxable income for the year.
The corporation's deduction for dividends received from domestic
corporations is generally subject to an aggregate limit of 70% or 80%
of taxable income. However, if a corporation sustains an NOL for a tax
year, the limit based on taxable income does not apply. In determining
if a corporation has an NOL, the corporation figures the
dividends-received deduction without regard to the 70% or 80% of
taxable income limit.
For more information on the dividends-received deduction, see
Dividends-Received Deduction under Income and
A corporation had $500,000 of gross income from business operations
and $625,000 of allowable business expenses. It also received $150,000
in dividends from a domestic corporation for which it can take an 80%
deduction, ordinarily limited to 80% of its taxable income before the
deduction. It figures its NOL as follows:
|Income from business
|Taxable income before
|Minus: Deduction for dividends received, 80% of
|Net operating loss
Claiming the NOL Deduction
The form a corporation uses to deduct its NOL depends on whether it
carries the NOL back or forward.
For a carryback.
If a corporation carries back the NOL, it can use either Form
or Form 1139.
A corporation can get a refund faster
by using Form 1139. It cannot file Form 1139 before filing the return
for the corporation's NOL year, but it must file Form 1139 no later
than one year after the NOL year.
If the corporation does not file Form 1139, it must file Form 1120X
within 3 years of the due date, plus extensions, for filing the return
for the year in which it sustains the NOL.
For a carryforward.
If a corporation carries forward its NOL, it enters the
carryforward on Schedule K (Form 1120), line 12. It also enters the
deduction for the carryover (but not to exceed the corporation's
taxable income after special deductions) on line 29(a) of Form 1120 or
line 25(a) of Form 1120-A.
If a corporation expects to have an NOL in its current year, it can
automatically extend the time for paying all or part of its income tax
for the immediately preceding year. It does this by filing Form
It must explain on the form why it
expects the loss.
The extension amount cannot exceed the tax overpayment in the
carryback years due to the NOL carryback.
Period of extension.
The extension is in effect until the end of the month in which the
return for the NOL year is due, including extensions.
If the corporation files Form 1139 before this date, the extension
will continue until the date the IRS notifies the corporation that its
Form 1139 is disallowed in whole or in part.
Figuring the NOL Carryover
If the NOL available for a carryback or carryforward year is
greater than the taxable income for that year, the corporation must
modify its taxable income to figure how much of the NOL it will use up
in that year and how much it can carry to the next tax year. Its
carryover is the excess of the available NOL over its modified taxable
income for the carryback or carryforward year.
Modified taxable income.
A corporation figures its modified taxable income in much the same
way it figures taxable income with the following exceptions.
- It can deduct NOLs only from years before the NOL
year whose carryover is being figured.
- The corporation must figure its deduction for charitable
contributions without considering any NOL carrybacks.
The modified taxable income for any year cannot be less than zero.
Modified taxable income is used only to figure how much of an NOL
the corporation uses up in the carryback or carryforward year and how
much it carries to the next year. It is not used to fill out the
corporation's tax return or figure its tax.
A loss corporation that has an ownership change is limited on the
taxable income it can offset by NOL carryforwards arising before the
date of the ownership change. This limit applies to any year ending
after the change of ownership.
See sections 381, 382, 383, 384, and 269 of the Internal Revenue
Code and the related regulations for more information about the limits
on corporate NOL carryovers, definition of a loss corporation, and
corporate ownership changes.
Corporate equity reduction transactions.
The part of an NOL generated by certain interest deductions
attributable to a corporate equity reduction transaction can not be
carried back to a tax year before the tax year of the transaction. See
sections 172(b)(1)(E) and 172(h) of the Internal Revenue Code for more
The at-risk rules limit your losses from most activities to your
amount at risk in the activity. The at-risk limits apply to certain
closely held corporations (other than S corporations).
Closely held corporation.
For the at-risk rules, a corporation is a closely held corporation
if, at any time during the last half of the tax year, more than 50% in
value of its outstanding stock is owned directly or indirectly by, or
for, five or fewer individuals.
To figure if more than 50% in value of the stock is owned by five
or fewer individuals, apply the following rules.
- Stock owned, directly or indirectly, by or for a
corporation, partnership, estate, or trust is considered owned
proportionately by its shareholders, partners, or
- An individual is considered to own the stock owned, directly
or indirectly, by or for his or her family. Family includes only
brothers and sisters (including half brothers and half sisters), a
spouse, ancestors, and lineal descendants.
- If a person holds an option to buy stock, he or she is
considered to be the owner of that stock.
- When applying rule (1) or (2), stock considered owned by a
person under rule (1) or (3) is treated as actually owned by that
person. Stock considered owned by an individual under rule (2) is not
treated as owned by the individual for again applying rule (2) to
consider another the owner of that stock.
- Stock that may be considered owned by an individual under
either rule (2) or (3) is considered owned by the individual under
For more information on the at-risk limits, see Publication 925.
Passive Activity Limits
The passive activity rules generally limit your losses from passive
activities to the amount of your passive activity income. Generally,
you are in a passive activity if you have a trade or business activity
in which you do not materially participate during the tax year, or you
have a rental activity.
The passive activity rules apply to personal service corporations
and closely held C corporations.
Personal service corporation.
For the passive activity rules, a corporation is a personal service
corporation if it meets all of the following requirements.
- It is not an S corporation.
- Its principal activity during the "testing period" is
performing personal services. The testing period for any tax year is
the previous tax year. If the corporation has just been formed, the
testing period begins on the first day of its tax year and ends on the
- The last day of its tax year, or
- The last day of the calendar year in which its tax year
- Its employee-owners substantially perform the services in
(2). This requirement is met if more than 20% of the corporation's
compensation cost for its activities of performing personal services
during the testing period is for personal services performed by
- Its employee-owners own more than 10% of the fair market
value of its outstanding stock on the last day of the testing period.
Personal services are those performed in the fields of accounting,
actuarial science, architecture, consulting, engineering, health
(including veterinary services), law, and performing arts.
A person is an employee-owner of a personal service corporation if
both of the following apply.
- He or she is an employee of the corporation or performs
personal services for, or on behalf of, the corporation (even if he or
she is an independent contractor for other purposes) on any day of the
- He or she owns any stock in the corporation at any time
during the testing period.
Closely held corporation.
For the passive activity rules, a corporation is closely held if
all of the following apply.
- It is not an S corporation.
- It is not a personal service corporation (defined earlier).
- At any time during the last half of the tax year, more than
50% of the value of its outstanding stock is, directly or indirectly,
owned by five or fewer individuals. "Individual" includes certain
trusts and private foundations.
For more information on the passive activity limits, see