Help me figure out of tax burden, Please.
December 31, 2010 9:13 PM   Subscribe

Can I take a business loss if I sell my business and the buyer doesn't pay?

My only business activity in 2010 in my sole-prop business is selling it. I financed it personally and the buyer only made 40% of the payments and then stiffed me. I sued him and default judgement is still pending because he did not respond to the summons.
How does this affect my tax situation? Can I take a loss for the amount he owes me or do I just claim an income for the amount he actually paid me?

posted by Thrillhouse to Work & Money (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IANAA, but I believe this qualifies as a "bad debt" and can be written off as a loss.
posted by xekul at 10:00 PM on December 31, 2010

I am not an accountant or a tax attorney. I think the answer depends on your basis. You cannot lose more than your investment. What was the equity in the company when you sold it? If you had no equity or a book value, then you would only pay taxes on the amount received. If you had equity and the 40% paid was less than the equity, you could take the difference as a loss and not pay taxes on the 40%. In the event you do that and the buyer eventually pays, you would then have to take that as income. Assume your sole prop business had 1 share of stock which you sold to the buyer. Whatever your basis for that share would determine the answer to your question.

If you owned 1 share of ABC Corp and you paid $40 for it but agree to sell it to a buyer for $100 and he only paid you 40% or $40, you would be selling it for what you paid so no taxes owed and no loss taken. If he paid 60% you would owe taxes on $20 ($60 less your basis of $40).

Assuming you kept books and records, at the time you sold your business it had an owner's equity of some number. That is your basis.
posted by AugustWest at 12:54 AM on January 1, 2011

IANYA, you are looking at capital gain/loss on sale of your business. In Canada you can claim a reserve for the funds not received yet ,deferring that portion of the gain to next year. If you don't receive the money next year, then you wouldn't claim the rest of the gain. They likely have a similar provision in the U.S., your tax preparer would know how to handle.
posted by canoehead at 9:23 AM on January 1, 2011

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