Giving Bad Debts the Business

November 24, 2021 HoganTaylor

bad debts

When one of your company’s customers can’t pay, you may be able to claim a tax deduction under Internal Revenue Code Section 166. To successfully claim the deduction, you’ll need to know how the tax code defines a partially or wholly worthless “bad debt.”

An accrual basis taxpayer records income at time of sale; not at collection. A deductible bad debt can generally be defined as a loss arising from the worthlessness of a debt created or acquired in your trade or business, or was closely related to your trade or business when it became partly or totally worthless. The most common bad debts involve credit sales to customers for goods or services.

Other examples of potential losses include loans to customers or suppliers made for business reasons and business-related guarantees of debts. Debts attributable to an insolvent partner may also qualify.

The IRS will scrutinize loans to be sure they’re legitimate. For example, it might deny a bad debt deduction if it determines a loan to a corporation was actually a contribution to capital.

There’s no standard test or formula for determining whether a debt is a bad debt; it depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. To qualify for the deduction, you must document you’ve taken reasonable steps to collect the debt and there’s little likelihood it will be paid. Our firm can look at your potentially bad debts and tell you for sure whether they’re deductible.

The HoganTaylor Tax Practice

If you have any questions about the content of this publication, or if you would like more information about HoganTaylor's Tax practice, please email Tony Otto, Tax Practice Lead, at You may also contact Denise Felber, Tax Partner, at

INFORMATIONAL PURPOSE ONLY. This content is for informational purposes only. This content does not constitute professional advice and should not be relied upon by you or any third party, including to operate or promote your business, secure financing or capital in any form, obtain any regulatory or governmental approvals, or otherwise be used in connection with procuring services or other benefits from any entity. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult with professional advisors.

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