How do I compute depreciation for tax purposes

The simple concept of depreciation can get complicated very quickly when one is trying to determine the proper depreciation deduction for any particular asset. Here’s only a summary of some of what’s involved.

Identifying the asset

The modified accelerated cost recovery system (MACRS) is generally, but not always, used to depreciate tangible depreciable property placed in service after 1986. The MACRS deduction is computed on Form 4562, Depreciation and Amortization.

Intangible property may not be depreciated under MACRS, but it may be amortized in certain situations. Real estate may not be depreciated, but buildings situated on it may. Sound recordings, films, and videotapes are specifically excluded from MACRS, but may be depreciated using the income forecast method. Deprecation for financial accounting book purposes is generally not the same as tax depreciation. Under MACRS, property placed in service and disposed of in the same tax year is not depreciable. Property converted from business use to personal use in the tax year of acquisition is not depreciable.

The cost of tangible depreciable property also may be deducted immediately if the business and the asset qualifies for Code Section 179 expensing. Bonus depreciation, in years that Congress makes it available, is also available, taken first before the asset’s remaining value is depreciated under MACRS.

Computing depreciation under MACRS

In order to compute depreciation under MACRS, the asset’s MACRS property class must be determined. The asset’s recovery period (i.e., its depreciation period), applicable depreciation method, and applicable convention depend on the asset’s property class. Under MACRS, an asset’s property class is based on either the type of asset or the business activity in which the asset is primarily used. The key resource for determining an asset’s property class is the asset classification table contained in Revenue Procedure 87-56.

The cost of property in the 3-, 5-, 7-, and 10-year classes is recovered using the 200-percent declining-balance method (i.e., the applicable depreciation method) over three, five, seven, and ten years, respectively (i.e., the applicable recovery period), and the half-year convention (unless the mid-quarter convention applies), with a switch to the straight-line method in the year that maximizes the deduction.

The cost of 15- and 20-year property is generally recovered using the 150-percent declining-balance method over 15 and 20 years, respectively, and the half-year convention, with a switch to the straight-line method to maximize the deduction. The cost of residential rental and nonresidential real property is recovered using the straight-line method and the mid-month convention over 27.5-  and 39-year recovery periods, respectively.

For more specific information on the amount of depreciation you may take for any business asset you own or plan to purchase, please feel free to contact this office.