TCP CPA Practice Questions Explained: Calculating C Corporation NOLs and Related Carryforward

Calculating C Corporation NOLs

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In this video, we walk through 5 TCP practice teaching about calculating C corporation NOLs and related carry-forwards. These questions are from TCP content area 2 on the AICPA CPA exam blueprints: Entity Tax Compliance.

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Calculating C Corporation NOLs and Related Carryforward or Carryback

Calculating the Net Operating Loss (NOL) for a C corporation and understanding the implications for carryforward and carryback is an essential aspect of corporate tax planning. Here’s a comprehensive guide to understanding NOLs, including their impact on charitable contributions and the Dividends Received Deduction (DRD), along with the historical context of how NOL rules have evolved.

Calculating a Typical NOL

An NOL occurs when a corporation’s allowable tax deductions exceed its taxable income within a tax year. Here’s how to calculate a typical NOL:

  1. Determine Taxable Income Before NOL:
    • Start with the corporation’s gross income.
    • Subtract allowable deductions, such as operating expenses.
    • If the result is negative, the corporation has a potential NOL.


  • Gross income: $900,000
  • Operating expenses: $1,200,000
  • Taxable income before NOL: $900,000 – $1,200,000 = -$300,000
  • NOL: $300,000

Charitable Contributions and NOLs

Charitable contributions can complicate the NOL calculation due to their deduction limits:

  • Charitable contributions are generally deductible up to 10% of taxable income before considering the contributions themselves.
  • If taxable income before charitable contributions is negative, the limit for deductible contributions is effectively zero.
  • Unused charitable contributions can be carried forward for up to five years.


  • Taxable income before contributions: -$300,000
  • Charitable contributions: $50,000
  • Deductible amount: $0 (due to negative taxable income)
  • Remaining NOL: $300,000

Dividends Received Deduction (DRD) and NOLs

The DRD allows C corporations to deduct a portion of the dividends received from other domestic corporations, based on their ownership percentage. The DRD impacts NOL calculations as follows:

  • Ownership less than 20%: 50% DRD
  • Ownership between 20% and 80%: 65% DRD
  • Ownership of 80% or more: 100% DRD


  1. Add Dividends Received:
    • Include dividends in taxable income before applying the DRD.
  2. Subtract DRD:
    • Calculate the DRD based on the applicable percentage.
    • Adjust taxable income accordingly.


  • Gross income: $900,000
  • Operating expenses: $700,000
  • Dividends received: $200,000 (25% ownership)
  • Taxable income before DRD: $900,000 – $700,000 + $200,000 = $400,000
  • DRD (65% of $200,000): $130,000
  • Taxable income after DRD: $400,000 – $130,000 = $270,000

Historical Context and Evolution of NOL Rules

  1. Pre-TCJA (Before 2018):
    • NOLs could be carried back two years and carried forward 20 years.
    • NOLs could offset up to 100% of taxable income.
  2. CARES Act (2018-2020):
    • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act temporarily changed the NOL rules for losses arising in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
    • These NOLs could be carried back five years and carried forward indefinitely.
    • The 80% limitation from the TCJA was suspended, allowing NOLs to offset up to 100% of taxable income for those years.
  3. Current Rules (Post-2020):
    • Starting with tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2021, NOLs cannot be carried back and can only be carried forward indefinitely.
    • The 80% limitation on the use of NOL carryforwards is reinstated.

Applying NOLs to Future Tax Years

To apply NOLs:

  • Calculate taxable income in the future year.
  • NOLs can offset up to 80% of this taxable income.
  • Any remaining NOL after the offset can be carried forward indefinitely.


  • Future taxable income: $500,000
  • NOL carryforward: $300,000
  • Maximum NOL offset (80% of $500,000): $400,000
  • Since the NOL carryforward is less than the maximum offset, the entire $300,000 can be used.

In summary, calculating a C corporation’s NOL involves determining the excess of deductions over income, considering charitable contributions and the DRD, and understanding the historical and current rules regarding NOL carryforward and carryback. These elements are crucial for effective corporate tax planning and compliance.

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