Form 8594, Asset Acquisition Form: Explained!

Residual Method Allocation Order

If an asset described in Class I through VI is included in more than one category, you must include it in the lower number category. For example, if an asset is described in both (IV) and (VI), include it in (IV).

As you will see from the example below, the allocations were assigned in ascending order by class.  For assigning the residual method’s allocation order, start with the total sales price paid and reduce it by Class I assets (if any).

From there, allocate the remaining sales price to Class II assets, followed by Class III assets, and so on in ascending order.

Residual Method Allocation Example

Let’s look at a Form 8594 example.  Imagine you sold your business for $50,000 and it included no cash or deposit accounts, no securities, but equipment and furnishings and a customer list with fair market values of $30,000 and $10,000 respectively.  Additionally, there was inventory or stock on hand with a fair market value of $8,000.

The $50,000 would be allocated as follows:

  • $8,000 inventory to Class IV asset
  • $30,000 equipment and furnishings to Class V asset
  • $10,000 customer list to Class VI asset
  • $2,000 to goodwill, a Class VII asset

How is the Sale of a Business Taxed?

The sale of a business is not a sale of one asset.  Instead, all the assets which constitute the trade or business are sold together.  When this occurs, generally, each asset is treated as being sold separately for determining the gain or loss treatment.

Because businesses have many assets, when sold, when used in the trade or business they must be classified as:

  1. capital assets
  2. depreciable property
  3. real property
  4. property held for sale to customers (i.e., inventory or stock in trade)

The gain or loss on each asset is calculated separately.  The sale of capital assets results in either a short-term or long-term capital gain or loss.  The sale or real property or depreciable property held for longer than 1 year results in a gain or loss from a Section 1231 property transaction.  Finally, the sale of inventory results in ordinary income or loss.

Does the Seller Care how the Class Allocations are Made?

Because businesses are made up of many different types of assets, how they are treated can determine the different taxable treatment received.  In particular, how the assets of a business are identified during their sale can have a significant tax impact on the buyer and seller.

In the case of a seller’s point of view, they would want to designate as many items as possible into classes which will result in a long-term capital gain on sale.  This provides the best tax result for the sale because they will pay less than the short-term capital gains rate.

For example, the seller would prefer to designate a significant portion of the sales price to goodwill and minimize any allocations to furnishings and equipment.  Under the tax code goodwill is a capital asset, which will be taxed at a maximum rate of 20% (top marginal long-term capital gain rate).  While furnishings and equipment can be taxed at a top rate as high as 37% (individual) or 21% (corporate income tax rate).

This differential diminished considerably for businesses as a result of tax reform in 2018, when the corporate income tax rate stood at 35%.

Taking advantage of the preferential tax treatment assigned to long-term capital gains and passive income is advantageous to the seller.  Depending on the dollar value of the assets being transferred in the sale, it is possible to pay zero tax on the sale if the gains are treated as long-term capital gains.

Does the Buyer Care how the Class Allocations are Made?

The buyer has different motivations for the allocation of certain items into the seven asset categories used.  While the seller wants items designated in categories allowing for long-term capital gains, the buyer has a desire to categorize assets as short-term in nature.

Doing so allows the purchased items to be written-off sooner and reduce the amount of taxes they owe upfront.  For example, having a significant portion of the transaction classified as furnishings and equipment would allow these items to be depreciated over a shorter time period using a MACRS depreciation table (5 to 7 years) as opposed to amortizing goodwill over 15 years on their tax return.

The buyer and seller negotiate the allocation as part of the sales agreement.  These two motivations lead to an agreement which then becomes formalized by filing Form 8594.  Make sure the treatment is handled consistently, otherwise the IRS could make potential adjustments.


Does the IRS Care how the Class Allocations are Made?

The IRS generally has no preference for how the entities allocate the assets into classes so long as the entities use consistent treatment.  The Form 8594 documents this allocation and allocates the total sales price into various asset classes.

When the entities file their respective Form 8594 documents, the allocations must be spelled out and show consistent treatment between both documents.  Otherwise, the IRS would have issue with the transaction’s treatment.

What if the Form 8594 isn’t Filed on Time?

Both the buyer and seller must attach their Form 8594 documents to their income tax return in the year in which the sale occurred.  If the amount allocated to any asset increases or decreases by either party after the sale occurs, the buyer or seller (whichever is affected), must complete Parts I and III or Form 8594.

If either party fails to file a correct document by the due date of their respective tax return and cannot show reasonable cause, penalties may occur.  These penalties are stated in sections 6721 through 6724, the failure-to-file penalties or for not providing a social security number where applicable.

Who is Responsible for Filing Form 8594?

Generally, both the buyer and seller must file Form 8594 and attach it to their income tax returns (like Forms W-2, 1040, 1041, 1065, 1120, 1120S, etc.) when there is a transfer of a group of assets which make up a trade or business.  This occurs when the buyer’s basis in such assets is determined wholly by the amount paid for the assets.

If the buyer or seller is a controlled foreign corporation (CFC), each U.S. shareholder should attached Form 8594 to its Form 5471, the form used by certain U.S. citizens and residents who are officers, directors, or shareholders in certain foreign corporations.

It is the responsibility of both parties to file the form alongside any other applicable self-employment tax deductions, tax deductions, or tax credits.

Can I Get Help for Preparing Form 8594?

Yes, many highly-rated accounting and tax professionals offer their services through Fiverr.  Consider reviewing this list of popular tax, accounting and bookkeeping services offered through this services platform to see if any of the available options meet your needs.

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