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Congressional Incentives

Natural gas and oil development from domestic reserves helps to make our country more energy self-sufficient by reducing our dependence on foreign imports. In light of this, Congress has provided tax incentives to stimulate domestic natural gas and oil production financed by private sources. Natural gas and oil drilling projects offer many tax advantages. These tax benefits enhance the economics of natural gas and oil projects.

Intangible Drilling Cost Tax Deduction

Oil and gas projects are labor intensive, so a significant portion of the expenditure is considered Intangible Drilling Cost (IDC), which is 100% deductible during the first year. For example, a capital expenditure of $100,000 could result in approximately $16,250 in tax deductions for IDC even if the well does not start drilling until March 31 of the year following the contribution of capital. The remaining $8,750 of tangible costs may be deducted as depreciation over a seven-year period. (See Section 263 of the Tax Code).

Small Producer’s Tax Exemption

The 1990 Tax Act provided some special tax advantages for the typical Small Producer in oil and gas drilling projects. This tax incentive, known as the “Percentage Depletion Allowance”, is specifically intended to encourage participation in oil and gas drilling. This tax benefit is not available to large oil companies, or taxpayers who sell oil or natural gas through retail outlets, or those who engage in refining crude oil with runs of more than 50,000 barrels per day. It is also not available for entities owning more than 1,000 barrels of oil (or 6,000,000 cubic feet of gas) average daily production. The “Small Producers Exemption” specifically allows 15% of the gross income from an oil and gas producing property to be tax-free. (See Section 613A of the Tax Code).

Active Vs. Passive Income

The Tax Reform Act of 1986 introduced into the Tax Code the concepts of “Passive” income and “Active” income. The Act prohibits the offsetting of losses from Passive activities against income from Active businesses. The new Tax Code specifically states that a Working Interest in an oil and gas well is not a “Passive” activity, therefore, deductions can be offset against income from active stock trades, business income, salaries, etc. (See Section 469©(3) of the Tax Code).

Alternative Minimum Tax

Prior to the 1992 Tax Act, working interest participants in oil and gas joint ventures were subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax to the extent that this tax exceeded their regular tax. The recent Tax Act exempted Intangible Drilling Cost as a tax Preference Item. “Alternative Minimum Taxable Income” generally consists of adjusted gross income, minus allowable Alternative Minimum Tax itemized deduction, plus the sum of tax preference items and adjustments. “Tax preference items” are preferences existing in the Code to greatly reduce or eliminate regular income taxation. Included within this group are deductions for excess Intangible Drilling and Development Costs and the deduction for depletion allowable for a taxable year over the adjusted basis in the Drilling Acreage and the wells thereon.



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