26 CFR § 1.471-1 - Need for inventories.

§ 1.471-1 Need for inventories.

(a) In general. Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, in order to reflect taxable income correctly, inventories at the beginning and end of each taxable year are necessary in every case in which the production, purchase, or sale of merchandise is an income-producing factor. The inventory should include all finished or partly finished goods and, in the case of raw materials and supplies, only those which have been acquired for sale or which will physically become a part of merchandise intended for sale, in which class fall containers, such as kegs, bottles, and cases, whether returnable or not, if title thereto will pass to the purchaser of the product to be sold therein. Merchandise should be included in the inventory only if title thereto is vested in the taxpayer. Accordingly, the seller should include in his inventory goods under contract for sale but not yet segregated and applied to the contract and goods out upon consignment, but should exclude from inventory goods sold (including containers), title to which has passed to the purchaser. A purchaser should include in inventory merchandise purchased (including containers), title to which has passed to him, although such merchandise is in transit or for other reasons has not been reduced to physical possession, but should not include goods ordered for future delivery, transfer of title to which has not yet been effected. (But see § 1.472-1.)

(b) Exemption for certain small business taxpayers -

(1) In general. Paragraph (a) of this section shall not apply to a taxpayer, other than a tax shelter prohibited from using the cash receipts and disbursements method of accounting (cash method) under section 448(a)(3), in any taxable year if the taxpayer meets the gross receipts test described in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, and uses as a method of accounting for its inventory a method that is described in paragraph (b)(3) of this section.

(2) Gross receipts test -

(i) In general. A taxpayer, other than a tax shelter prohibited from using the cash method under section 448(a)(3), meets the gross receipts test of this paragraph (b)(2) if it meets the gross receipts test of section 448(c) and § 1.448-2(c). This gross receipts test applies even if the taxpayer is not otherwise subject to section 448(a).

(ii) Application of the gross receipts test -

(A) In general. In the case of any taxpayer that is not a corporation or partnership, and except as otherwise provided in paragraphs (b)(2)(ii)(B) and (C) of this section, the gross receipts test of section 448(c) and the accompanying regulations are applied in the same manner as each trade or business of the taxpayer were a corporation or partnership.

(B) Gross receipts of individuals, etc. Except when the aggregation rules of section 448(c)(2) apply, the gross receipts of a taxpayer other than a corporation or partnership are the amount derived from all trades or businesses of such taxpayer. Amounts not related to a trade or businesses are excluded from the gross receipts of the taxpayer. For example, an individual taxpayer's gross receipts do not include inherently personal amounts, such as: personal injury awards or settlements with respect to an injury of the individual taxpayer, disability benefits, Social Security benefits received by the taxpayer during the taxable year, and wages received as an employee that are reported on Form W-2.

(C) Partners and S corporation shareholders -

(1) In general. Except when the aggregation rules of section 448(c)(2) apply, each partner in a partnership includes a share of the partnership's gross receipts in proportion to such partner's distributive share (as determined under section 704) of items of gross income that were taken into account by the partnership under section 703. Similarly, a shareholder includes the pro rata share of S corporation gross receipts taken into account by the S corporation under section 1363(b).

(2) [Reserved]

(D) Examples. The operation of this paragraph (b)(2) is illustrated by the following examples:

(1) Example 1. Taxpayer A, a calendar year S corporation, is a reseller and maintains inventories. In 2017, 2018, and 2019, A's gross receipts were $10 million, $11 million, and $13 million respectively. A is not prohibited from using the cash method under section 448(a)(3). For 2020, A meets the gross receipts test of paragraph (b)(2) of this section.

(2) Example 2. Taxpayer B operates two separate and distinct trades or businesses that are reported on Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business, of B's Federal income tax return. For 2020, one trade or business has annual average gross receipts of $5 million, and the other trade or business has average annual gross receipts of $35 million. Under paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(B) of this section, for 2020, neither of B's trades or businesses meets the gross receipts test of paragraph (b)(2) of this section ($5 million + $35 million = $40 million, which is greater than the inflation-adjusted gross receipts test amount for 2020, which is $26 million).

(3) Example 3. Taxpayer C is an individual who operates three separate and distinct trades or business that are reported on Schedule C of C's Federal income tax return. For 2020, Business X is a retail store with average annual gross receipts of $15 million, Business Y is a dance studio with average annual gross receipts of $6 million, and Business Z is a car repair shop with average annual gross receipts of $12 million. Under paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(B) of this section, C's gross receipts are the combined amount derived from all three of C's trades or businesses. Therefore, for 2020, X, Y and Z do not meet the gross receipts test of paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section ($15 million + $6 million + $12 million = $33 million, which is greater than the inflation-adjusted gross receipts test amount for 2020, which is $26 million).

(3) Methods of accounting under the small business taxpayer exemption. A taxpayer eligible to use, and that chooses to use, the exemption described in paragraph (b) of this section may account for its inventory by either:

(i) Using a method that treats its inventory as non-incidental materials and supplies (section 471(c) NIMS inventory method), as described in paragraph (b)(4) of this section; or

(ii) Using the method for each item that is reflected in the taxpayer's applicable financial statement (AFS) (AFS section 471(c) inventory method); or, if the taxpayer does not have an AFS for the taxable year, the books and records of the taxpayer prepared in accordance with the taxpayer's accounting procedures, as defined in paragraph (b)(6)(ii) of this section (non-AFS section 471(c) inventory method).

(4) Inventory treated as non-incidental materials and supplies -

(i) In general. The costs of inventory treated as non-incidental materials and supplies are recovered through cost of goods sold only in the taxable year in which the inventory is used or consumed in the taxpayer's business, or in the taxable year in which the taxpayer pays for or incurs the cost of the inventory, whichever is later. Inventory treated as non-incidental materials and supplies is used or consumed in the taxpayer's business in the taxable year in which the taxpayer provides the inventory to its customer. The costs of inventory are treated as non-incidental materials and supplies under this paragraph (b)(4) are not eligible for the de minimis safe harbor election under § 1.263(a)-1(f)(2).

(ii) Identification and valuation of inventory treated as non-incidental materials and supplies. A taxpayer may determine the amount of the costs of its inventory treated as non-incidental materials and supplies that are recoverable through costs of goods sold by using either a specific identification method, a first-in, first-out (FIFO) method, or an average cost method, provided that method is used consistently. See § 1.471-2(d). A taxpayer that uses the section 471(c) NIMS inventory method may not use any other method described in the regulations under section 471, or the last-in, first-out (LIFO) method described in section 472 and the accompanying regulations, to either identify inventory treated as non-incidental materials and supplies, or to value that inventory treated as non-incidental materials and supplies. The inventory costs includible in the section 471(c) NIMS inventory method are the direct material costs of the property produced or the costs of property acquired for resale. However, an inventory cost does not include a cost for which a deduction would be disallowed, or that is not otherwise recoverable but for paragraph (b)(4) of this section, in whole or in part, under a provision of the Internal Revenue Code.

(iii) Allocation methods. A taxpayer treating its inventory as non-incidental materials and supplies under this paragraph (b)(4) may allocate the costs of such inventory by using specific identification or any other reasonable method.

(iv) Example. Taxpayer D is a baker that reports its baking trade or business on Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business, of the Form 1040, Individual Tax Return, and D's baking business has average annual gross receipts for the 3-taxable years prior to 2019 of less than $100,000. D meets the gross receipts test of section 448(c) and is not prohibited from using the cash method under section 448(a)(3) in 2019. Therefore, D qualifies as a small business taxpayer under paragraph (b)(2) of this section. D uses the overall cash method, and the section 471(c) NIMS inventory method. D purchases $50 of peanut butter in November 2019. In December 2019, D uses all of the peanut butter to bake cookies available for immediate sale. D sells those peanut butter cookies to customers in January 2020. The peanut butter cookies are used or consumed under paragraph (b)(4)(i) of this section in January 2020 when the cookies are sold to customers, and D may recover the cost of the peanut butter in 2020.

(5) AFS section 471(c) inventory method -

(i) In general. A taxpayer that meets the gross receipts test described in paragraph (b)(2) of this section and that has an AFS for such taxable year may use the AFS section 471(c) inventory method described in this paragraph to account for its inventory costs for the taxable year. For purposes of the AFS section 471(c) inventory method, an inventory cost is a cost of production or resale that a taxpayer capitalizes to inventory property produced or property acquired for resale in its AFS. For purposes of the AFS section 471(c) inventory method, costs that are generally required to be capitalized to inventory under section 471(a) but that the taxpayer does not capitalize to inventory on its AFS are not required to be capitalized to inventory. However, an inventory cost does not include a cost that is neither deductible nor otherwise recoverable but for paragraph (b)(5) of this section, in whole or in part, under a provision of the Internal Revenue Code (for example, section 162(c), (e), (f), (g), or 274). In lieu of the inventory method described in section 471(a), a taxpayer using the AFS section 471(c) inventory method recovers its inventory costs in accordance with the inventory method used in its AFS.

(ii) Definition of Applicable Financial Statement (AFS). The term applicable financial statement (AFS) is defined in section 451(b)(3) and the accompanying regulations. See § 1.451-3(a)(5). The rules relating to additional AFS issues provided in § 1.451-3(h) apply to the AFS section 471(c) inventory method. In the case of a taxpayer with a financial accounting year that differs from the taxpayer's taxable year, the taxpayer must consistently use the same method of accounting described in § 1.451-3(h)(4)(i)(A) through (C) that is used for section 451(b) purposes to also determine its inventory for the taxable year under this paragraph (b)(5)(ii). A taxpayer has an AFS for the taxable year if all of the taxpayer's taxable year is covered by an AFS.

(iii) Timing of inventory costs. Notwithstanding the timing rules used in the taxpayer's AFS, the amount of any inventoriable cost may not be capitalized or otherwise taken into account for Federal income tax purposes any earlier than the taxable year during which the amount is paid or incurred under the taxpayer's overall method of accounting, as described in § 1.446-1(c)(1). For example, in the case of an accrual method taxpayer, inventoriable costs must satisfy the all events test, including economic performance, of section 461. See § 1.446-1(c)(1)(ii) and section 461 and the accompanying regulations.

(iv) Example. H is a calendar year C corporation that is engaged in the trade or business of selling office supplies and providing copier repair services. H meets the gross receipts test of section 448(c) and is not prohibited from using the cash method under section 448(a)(3) for 2019 or 2020. For Federal income tax purposes, H chooses to account for purchases and sales of inventory using an accrual method of accounting and for all other items using the cash method. For AFS purposes, H uses an overall accrual method of accounting. H uses the AFS section 471(c) inventory method of accounting. In H's 2019 AFS, H incurred $2 million in purchases of office supplies held for resale and recovered the $2 million as cost of goods sold. On January 5, 2020, H makes payment on $1.5 million of these office supplies. For purposes of the AFS section 471(c) inventory method of accounting, H can recover the $2 million of office supplies in 2019 because the amount has been included in cost of goods sold in its AFS inventory method and section 461 has been satisfied.

(6) Non-AFS section 471(c) inventory method -

(i) In general. A taxpayer that meets the gross receipts test described in paragraph (b)(2) of this section for a taxable year and that does not have an AFS, as defined in paragraph (b)(5)(ii) of this section, for such taxable year may use the non-AFS section 471(c) inventory method to account for its inventories for the taxable year in accordance with this paragraph (b)(6). The non-AFS section 471(c) inventory method is the method of accounting used for inventory in the taxpayer's books and records that properly reflect its business activities for non-tax purposes and are prepared in accordance with the taxpayer's accounting procedures. For purposes of the non-AFS section 471(c) inventory method, an inventory cost is a cost of production or resale that the taxpayer capitalizes to inventory property produced or property acquired for resale in its books and records, except as provided in paragraph (b)(6)(ii) of this section. Costs that are generally required to be capitalized to inventory under section 471(a), but that the taxpayer does not capitalize in its books and records are not required to be capitalized to inventory. However, an inventory cost does not include a cost that is neither deductible nor otherwise recoverable but for paragraph (b)(5) of this section, in whole or in part, under a provision of the Internal Revenue Code (for example, section 162(c), (e), (f), (g), or 274). In lieu of the inventory method described in section 471(a), a taxpayer using the non-AFS section 471(c) inventory method recovers its applicable costs through its book inventory method of accounting. A taxpayer that has an AFS for such taxable year may not use the non-AFS section 471(c) inventory method.

(ii) Timing and amounts of costs. Notwithstanding the timing of costs reflected in the taxpayer's books and records, a taxpayer may not recover any costs that have not been paid or incurred under the taxpayer's overall method of accounting, as described in § 1.446-1(c)(1). For example, in the case of an accrual method taxpayer or a taxpayer using an accrual method for purchases and sales, inventory costs must satisfy the all events test, including economic performance, under section 461(h). See § 1.446-1(c)(1)(ii), and section 461 and the accompanying regulations.

(iii) Examples. The following examples illustrate the rules of paragraph (b)(6) of this section.

(A) Example 1. Taxpayer E is a C corporation that is engaged in the retail trade or business of selling beer, wine, and liquor. In 2019, E has average annual gross receipts for the prior 3-taxable-years of $15 million and is not otherwise prohibited from using the cash method under section 448(a)(3). E does not have an AFS for the 2019 taxable year. E is eligible to use the non-AFS section 471(c) inventory method of accounting. E uses the overall cash method, and the non-AFS section 471(c) inventory method of accounting for Federal income tax purposes. In E's electronic bookkeeping software, E treats all costs paid during the taxable year as presently deductible. As part of its regular business practice, E's employees take a physical count of inventory on E's selling floor and its warehouse on December 31, 2019, and E uses this physical count as part of its books and records for purposes of capitalizing and allocating costs to inventory. E also makes representations to its creditor of the cost of inventory on hand for specific categories of product it sells. E may not expense all of its costs paid during the 2019 taxable year because its books and records do not accurately reflect the inventory records used for non-tax purposes in its regular business activity. Instead, E must use the physical inventory count taken at the end of 2019 to determine how its capitalized costs are allocated and recovered.

(B) Example 2. Same facts as Example (1) in paragraph (b)(6)(iii)(A) of this section but E does not use the physical count to capitalize and allocate costs to inventory and does not make any representations about inventory on hand to any creditors. Although E pays or incurs costs that are generally required to be capitalized to inventory under section 471(a), because such costs are not capitalized to inventory in E's books and records, they are not required to be capitalized to inventory under paragraph (b)(6)(i) of this section.

(C) Example 3. Same facts as Example (1) in paragraph (b)(6)(iii)(A) of this section but E does not use the physical count to capitalize and allocate costs to inventory in its electronic bookkeeping software and does not make any representations about inventory on hand to any external parties. E does use the physical count to value inventory on hand for internal reports to its shareholders. The internal reports to its shareholders are part of E's books and records and must be taken into account for E's non-AFS section 471(c) inventory method. E recovers its inventory costs consistent with its non-AFS section 471(c) inventory method.

(D) Example 4. Taxpayer F is a C corporation that is engaged in the manufacture of baseball bats. In 2019, F has average annual gross receipts for the prior 3-taxable-years of less than $25 million and is not otherwise prohibited from using the cash method under section 448(a)(3). F does not have an AFS for the 2019 taxable year. For Federal income tax purposes, F uses the overall cash method of accounting, and the non-AFS section 471(c) inventory method of accounting. For its books and records, F uses an overall accrual method and maintains inventories. In December 2019, F's financial statements show $500,000 of direct and indirect material costs. F pays its supplier in January 2020. Under paragraph (b)(6)(ii) of this section, F recovers its direct and indirect material costs in 2020.

(E) Example 5. Taxpayer G is a baker that reports its baking trade or business on Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business, of the Form 1040, Individual Tax Return. In 2020, G's baking business has average annual gross receipts for the prior 3-taxable years of less than $100,000 and is not otherwise prohibited from using the cash method under section 448(a)(3). G does not have an AFS for the 2020 taxable year. For Federal income tax purposes, G uses the overall cash method of accounting and the non-AFS section 471(c) inventory method. In G's books and records for 2020 that properly reflects its business activities for non-tax purposes, G capitalizes the cost of its cookie ingredients to inventory but immediately expenses the cost of labor for G's employee who bakes the cookies. Under paragraphs (b)(6)(i) and (ii) of this section, G treats as an inventory cost the cost of its cookie ingredients and recovers such costs in accordance with the accounting procedures used to prepare its books and records, or, if later, when paid. Additionally, although the cost of direct labor is generally required to be capitalized to inventory under section 471(a), because such cost is not capitalized to inventory in G's books and records, it is not required to be capitalized to inventory under paragraph (b)(6)(i) of this section. Further, because such direct labor cost is generally deductible under section 162, and not otherwise required to be capitalized under section 263(a), G may deduct the cost of labor in the year G pays that expense.

(F) Example 6. Taxpayer H is a partnership engaged in the resale of beer, wine, and liquor. In 2020, H has average annual gross receipts for the prior 3-taxable-years of less than $25 million and is not otherwise prohibited from using the cash method under section 448(a)(3). H does not have an AFS for the 2020 taxable year. For Federal income tax purposes, H uses the overall cash method of accounting, and the non-AFS section 471(c) inventory method of accounting. For its books and records, H uses the overall cash method. As part of its regular business practice, H's employees take regular physical counts of the inventory on the shop floor and in the storeroom, however H's method of accounting for inventory for its books and records does not allocate costs between ending inventory and cost of goods sold, and instead expenses the cost of the inventory in the year it was paid for. Prior to December 2020, H acquires and pays for $500,000 of beer, wine, and liquor. In addition, on December 1, 2020, H acquires $50,000 in beer and wine, and pays for this beer and wine on December 20, 2020. H may recover as deductions in 2020 the $550,000 of inventory costs.

(G) Example 7. Taxpayer J is a partnership engaged in the resale of beer, wine, and liquor. In 2020, J has average annual gross receipts for the prior 3-taxable-years of less than $25 million and is not otherwise prohibited from using the cash method under section 448(a)(3). J does not have an AFS for the 2020 taxable year. For Federal income tax purposes, J uses the overall cash method of accounting, and the non-AFS section 471(c) inventory method of accounting. For its books and records, J uses the overall cash method. J maintains a point-of-sale computer system that tracks acquisition costs and inventory levels of the beer, wine, and liquor. The ledger is periodically reconciled with physical counts performed by J's employees. J must use the physical inventory count and ledger to determine its ending inventory. J includes in cost of goods sold for 2020 those inventory costs that are not properly allocated to ending inventory.

(7) Effect of section 471(c) on other provisions. Nothing in section 471(c) shall have any effect on the application of any other provision of law that would otherwise apply, and no inference shall be drawn from section 471(c) with respect to the application of any such provision. For example, an accrual method taxpayer that includes inventory costs in its AFS is required to satisfy section 461 before such cost can be included in cost of goods sold for the taxable year. Similarly, nothing in section 471(c) affects the requirement under section 446(e) that a taxpayer secure the consent of the Commissioner before changing its method of accounting. If an item of income or expense is not treated consistently from year to year, that treatment may not clearly reflect income, notwithstanding the application of this section. Finally, nothing in section 471(c) permits the deduction or recovery of any cost that a taxpayer is otherwise precluded from deducting or recovering under any other provision in the Code or Regulations.

(8) Method of accounting -

(i) In general. A change in the method of treating inventory under this paragraph (b) is a change in method of accounting under sections 446 and 481 and the accompanying regulations. A taxpayer changing its method of accounting under paragraph (b) of this section may do so only with the consent of the Commissioner as required under section 446(e) and § 1.446-1. For example, a taxpayer using the AFS section 471(c) inventory method or non-AFS section 471(c) inventory method that wants to change its method of accounting for inventory in its AFS, or its books and records, respectively, is required to secure the consent of the Commissioner before using this new method for Federal income tax purposes. However, a change from having an AFS to not having an AFS, or vice versa, without a change in the underlying method for inventory for financial reporting purposes that affects Federal income tax is not a change in method of accounting for such inventory under section 446(e). In the case of any taxpayer required by this section to change its method of accounting for any taxable year, the change shall be treated as a change initiated by the taxpayer. For rules relating to the clear reflection of income and the pattern of consistent treatment of an item, see section 446 and § 1.446-1. The amount of the net section 481(a) adjustment and the adjustment period necessary to implement a change in method of accounting required under this section are determined under § 1.446-1(e) and the applicable administrative procedures to obtain the Commissioner's consent to change a method of accounting as published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin (see Revenue Procedure 2015-13 (2015-5 IRB 419) (or successor) (see also § 601.601(d)(2) of this chapter).

(ii) Automatic consent for certain method changes. Certain changes in method of accounting made under paragraph (b) of this section may be made under the procedures to obtain the automatic consent of the Commissioner to change a method of accounting. See Revenue Procedure 2015-13 (2015-5 IRB 419) (or successor) (see § 601.601(d)(2) of this chapter)). In certain situations, special terms and conditions may apply.

(c) Applicability dates. This section applies for taxable years beginning on or after January 5, 2021. However, for a taxable year beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 5, 2021, a taxpayer may apply this section provided that the taxpayer follows all the applicable rules contained in this section for such taxable year and all subsequent taxable years.

[T.D. 6500, 25 FR 11724, Nov. 26, 1960, as amended by T.D. 9942, 86 FR 275, Jan. 5, 2021]