Section 263A is an often misunderstood and misapplied part of the Internal Revenue Code. And it is one that many construction businesses — particularly homebuilders — should get a handle on to avoid unexpected tax issues and unwanted attention from the IRS. This article reviews the basics, so consult your advisor for a deeper dive into the complex tax rule.


Sec. 263A, also referred to as uniform capitalization or UNICAP, requires eligible businesses to capitalize — rather than currently deduct — certain direct and indirect costs related to producing, acquiring, improving, and holding property to sell. This means these costs must be spread out over time rather than reported as a current expense.

Under the tax code, costs that must be capitalized include direct labor, direct materials, and indirect costs that are related to the production process. They must be added to the basis of the property and depreciated over time (or included in inventory costs, as applicable). While marketing, selling, advertising, and distribution expenses are indirect costs that generally can be deducted in the current tax period, general, administrative, and mixed-service costs such as those related to payroll, legal, and accounting must be capitalized.

The tax code rules related to inventory mainly apply to those who are considered “resellers” of inventory or “producers” of inventory and self-constructed assets. Contractors and developers may be subject to Sec. 263A because the IRS defines producers as those who build, install, manufacture, construct or improve on a property. This does not refer only to hammering nails or pouring foundations. Companies that contract out the construction of a property to a third party are also subject to this part of the tax code — in these instances, both parties are considered producers.

Exempt vs. Eligible

Not every construction company is required to comply with Sec. 263A. Businesses whose average gross receipts from the previous three tax years are $25 million (adjusted for inflation) or less are exempt from its requirements. Also typically exempt are:

  • Costs associated with natural gas or mineral property,
  • “De minimis” costs of property treated as incident to the services provided; to qualify, the costs must not exceed 5% of the price charged to the customer for the services provided,
  • Projects using long-term contracts under Sec. 460 that do not involve home and residential construction, and
  • Total indirect costs that do not exceed $200,000.

If your construction company does find itself subject to the Sec. 263A requirements, compliance will generally involve areas such as:

Capitalization of costs. When your construction business produces inventory, you must capitalize the costs of materials, labor, and overhead incurred in the production of that inventory. Indirect costs can include indirect labor, insurance, and property taxes. Such costs cannot be expensed in the current year. Instead, they must be added to the basis of the inventory and depreciated over time.

Capitalization of interest costs. When your construction company incurs interest costs during a production period, it must also capitalize these costs. Interest costs cannot be expensed in the current year and must be added to the basis of the inventory and depreciated over time.

Long-term contracts. The tax code may require you to use the percentage of completion method to determine your income from long-term contracts — that is, those not completed within the same tax year as they were entered. Under this accounting method, a construction business recognizes income on a contract as it is being performed, rather than waiting until the contract is completed. Percentage of completion can be more beneficial than the completed contract method because it allows you to recognize income sooner.

It is also important to note that costs to be capitalized include those incurred during both preconstruction and postconstruction. These may include carrying costs, real estate taxes, and zoning request costs related to the holding of the property for future development. Construction or development begins during predevelopment and is deemed to have ended once the property is placed in service or ready for sale. Interest, however, needs to be capitalized only during the construction or development stage.

Complex Compliance

For construction businesses subject to its requirements, Sec. 263A can give rise to complex tax accounting challenges. If your company must manage compliance in this area, our manufacturing and distribution team can help you better understand the rules, identify which costs to capitalize for each project, and accurately report the costs to the IRS.

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Our firm provides the information in this article for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal or other competent advisors. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional advisor who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles in this blog are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided “as is,” with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.




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