Section 263(a) refers to the final Tangible Property Regulations (TPR) that were filed in 2013 by the Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These regulations provide guidance for taxpayers in determining whether they must capitalize costs taken in acquiring property under sections 162(a) and 263(a).

The Internal Revenue Code, also known as IRC Section 263(a), specifically details the uniform capitalization (UNICAP) rules stating that costs that were previously expensed must now be capitalized as part of inventory for tax purposes. UNICAP prescribes the methods for determining which specific costs must now be capitalized.

To Whom Do These Rules Apply?

Section 263(a) applies particularly to land developers and large home-builders, those with average annual gross receipts of more than $10 million and with contracts lasting more than 10 years; to those who, for either trade or business:

  • Produce real property for use in business or activity
  • Produce real property for sale to customers
  • Acquire property for resale

There are, of course, exceptions:

  • If a taxpayer is permitted to use the cash method of accounting then he is not bound by the UNICAP rules.
  • Resellers whose average annual gross receipts for the three previous tax years do not exceed $10 million are exempt.

If you do not, specifically fit under one of these exceptions, you must look at what costs must be capitalized.

What Costs Are Included Under 263(a)?

  • Direct Costs - Integral material and labor costs, those generally included in an inventory.
  • Indirect Costs - Costs not included in direct costs; must be incurred through production or construction activities.
  • Service Costs - Indirect costs specifically linked to service departments, mainly general and administrative expenses.

Note: Any taxpayer creating property is required to capitalize costs from before, during, and after construction/development of the property.


  • Indirect costs including marketing, selling, advertising, and distribution expenses; general and administrative costs not related to construction or development; salaries not related to construction or development; research and experimental costs; depreciation; and amortization.
  • The code makes it clear there shall be no deductions for any amount paid out for new buildings, permanent improvements made to increase property value (with various exceptions), or for any amount spent on restoring property where an allowance has been made.

The final TPR regulations try to provide a means of discerning capital expenditures from other deductible business expenses such as supplies, repairs, and maintenance.

How To Allocate Costs For Capitalization

  1. Self-developed methods or simplified production methods can be used to ease the burden of tax calculations.
  2. The specific identification method can be used, tracing costs to specific objectives, using cause and effect and reasonable relationships to determine costs.
  3. With the burden rate method, indirect costs are allocated on a ratio using predetermined rates approximating the actual amount of indirect costs incurred.
  4. Using the standard cost method, direct and indirect costs are allocated to the contract using pre-established standard allowances with no references to real costs. Any significant variances need to be fixed.

De Minimis And Safe Harbor

Under the final regulations, taxpayers can apply the De Minimis rule for expenditure for non-incidentals, repairs, and maintenance. It is recommended to put in place a written capitalization policy in order to take advantage of De Minimis write-offs.

Expenditures not permitted under the De Minimis limits require further steps to determine the unit of property, apply improvement standards, and consider routine maintenance safe harbor. Once De Minimis limits are exceeded, consider if expenditures relates to either betterment, adaption, or restoration for this will require capitalization of expenditure. However, should the expenditure occur more than once in the depreciable life of an asset, it can be deducted under the safe harbor of routine maintenance.

In addition, individuals can elect not to capitalize repairs, maintenance or improvements to buildings. This option is available to taxpayers with 3-year average gross receipts under $10 million. This safe harbor applies to any owned or leased building with an unadjusted basis not to exceed $1 million per building. Deductions under this particular safe harbor equal the total amount paid during the tax year for repairs, maintenance and improvements and cannot be greater than either $10,000 or 2 percent of the unadjusted value of the building.

In order to benefit from "safe harbor," small taxpayers must complete an annual election statement attached to their federal tax returns. Decisions are made on a building by building basis.

Safe harbor for maintenance costs can include building property. Amounts can be deducted if they are incurred for

  • Regular activities performed more than once in 10 years
  • As a result of taxpayer's use of the building
  • To keep the building in its normal state


It is generally a good idea to have a tax preparer ensure you are complying with IRC Section 263(a) as large numbers of people are affected by the UNICAP rules. If you need help understanding Section 263(a), you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace.