What is Basis?
There are two distinct types of basis that apply to the partnership and to each partner. Outside basis refers to a partner’s interest in a partnership. Inside basis refers to a partnership’s basis in its assets.
Generally, basis measures the amount that the property’s owner is treated as having invested in the property. In most situations, the basis of an asset is its cost to you. The cost is the amount you pay for the property in cash, debt obligations, and other property or services.
Basis in a Partnership
In context of the outside basis, the basis is the partner’s investment in the partnership. This investment in the partnership can change as time progresses. The amount of a partner’s basis in the partnership is very important. Each year a partner’s basis in the partnership increases, or decreases based upon the partnership’s operations.
The partner’s basis is increased by the following, additional contributions to the partnership, including an increased share of, or assumption of, partnership liabilities, taxable and nontaxable partnership income. The partner’s basis is decreased by the following, the money and adjusted basis of property distributed to the partner by the partnership, a decreased share of partnership liabilities or an assumption of the partner’s individual liabilities by the partnership, partnership losses, nondeductible partnership expenses that are not capital expenditures.
How Does it Work?
Basis in a partnership can determine whether certain transactions between a partner and the partnership are taxable events or whether the partner can take certain deductions. Distributions from a partnership are tax free to partners until they have exhausted their basis in the partnership. The partnership’s debt can also generate a basis for the partner, which allows for further tax-free distributions. Another important rule to remember is that a basis can never go negative. Basis adjustments are generally calculated at the end of the partnership’s each taxable year. Updating basis each year can be a straightforward process, however when it is overlooked it can be a challenging task.
A partner’s share of losses that exceed basis are carried over to offset future income or basis. This means that a partner is limited to the number of losses they can utilize in a given year to the extent of the basis that they have in the partnership and the remainder is suspended and carried forward to future years.
In contrast, the inside basis is the partnership’s basis in its assets. The inside basis is calculated in order to derive any gains and losses when the partnership assets are sold or disposed of or transferred. Inside basis refers to the adjusted basis of each partnership asset, as determined from the partnership’s tax accounts. Inside basis usually comes from partner contributions but may also come from purchases the partnership makes with partnership funds.
Thus, we should all stay up to date with tracking our basis annually and we should have an end vision in mind when working through it. It is vital to track the basis from the beginning day one and keep tracking it. And consider saving all Schedules K-1 to the partnership’s permanent file in case basis needs to be re calculated or reviewed.
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– Priyank Shukla, CPA, Senior Accountant