Accuracy in Media

Car dealers participating in the government’s ‘cash for clunkers’ program were  shocked when the IRS informed them that they will owe taxes on the CARS rebates they receive from the government.

From Automotive News

It turns out dealers will have to pay taxes on the thousands of dollars in rebates they receive under the federal cash-for-clunkers program, according to an IRS advisory bulletin issued today.

The cash-for-clunkers measure, known as the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Act of 2009, exempts consumers who take advantage of the program from paying taxes on the rebate. But it does not exempt car dealers.

“Gross income generally means all income from whatever source derived unless specifically excluded by law,” wrote Terri Harris, who heads an IRS division specializing in automotive issues. “Gross income derived from a business means the total sales, less the cost of goods sold.”

It likely will be treated like a cash downpayment from the consumer.

A NHTSA official assured car dealers listening in on a National Automobile Dealers Association webinar Monday that they would not be taxed on the rebates.

“What you are dealing with are people who don’t understand accounting,” explains Dick Heider, a Denver-based dealer accountant. “This is a normal payment like in any car deal whether the money comes from the bank, the manufacturer or the government.”

Asked why dealers might have been confused about their tax obligations, Heider said they may have thought that because consumers didn’t have to pay taxes on the rebate, they also would be exempt.

Says Heider: “It’s still money in their pocket.”

The dealers may not bee quite so enthusiastic about the program now that they won’t be making as much money as they originally thought and throws into doubt whether or not the Senate will approve authorizing more money to the program as the House did on Friday.  At least the taxpayers will get some of the money wasted on the program back in taxes from the dealers. 


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