Like most business owners, you’ve probably heard about 100% bonus depreciation — and hopefully you’ve been claiming it when appropriate. It’s available for a wide range of qualifying asset purchases and allows you to deduct the entire expense of an eligible asset in the year it’s placed in service.
But there are many important details to keep in mind as you plan your asset purchases for 2021 and beyond. Here are five key points about this powerful tax-saving tool:
1. It’s scheduled to be reduced and eliminated.
Under current law, 100% bonus depreciation will be gradually reduced and eliminated for property placed in service in 2023 through 2026. Thus, an 80% rate will apply to property placed in service in 2023, 60% in 2024, 40% in 2025, and 20% in 2026. Bonus depreciation will be eliminated for 2027 and later years.
For some aircraft (generally, company planes) and for costs of certain property with a long production period, the reduction is scheduled to take place beginning a year later, from 2024 through 2027. Then it will be eliminated beginning in 2028.
Of course, Congress could pass legislation to extend bonus depreciation.
2. It’s available for new and most used property.
Before a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) provision went into effect in late 2017, used property didn’t qualify for bonus depreciation. It currently qualifies unless the taxpayer is the party that previously used the property or unless the property was acquired in ineligible transactions. (These are, generally, acquisitions that are tax-free or from a related person or entity.)
3. In some situations you should elect to turn it down.
Taxpayers can elect out of bonus depreciation for one or more classes of property. The election out may be useful for certain businesses. These include sole proprietorships and pass-through entities, such as partnerships, S corporations and, typically, limited liability companies, that want to prevent the “wasting” of depreciation deductions from applying them against lower-bracket income in the year property was placed in service — instead of applying them against anticipated higher-bracket income in future years.
C corporations are currently taxed at a flat rate. But because an increase to the corporate rate has been proposed, it could also make sense for C corporations to elect out of bonus depreciation this year.
4. Certain building improvements are eligible.
Before the TCJA, bonus depreciation was available for two types of real property:
- land improvements other than buildings, such as fencing and parking lots; and
- qualified improvement property (QIP), a broad category of internal improvements made to nonresidential buildings after the buildings have been placed in service.
The TCJA inadvertently eliminated bonus depreciation for QIP. However, 2020’s CARES Act made a retroactive technical correction to the TCJA that makes QIP placed in service after December 31, 2017, eligible for bonus depreciation.
5. 100% bonus depreciation has — temporarily — reduced the importance of Section 179 expensing.
If you own a smaller business, you’ve likely benefited from Sec. 179 expensing. This is an elective benefit that, subject to dollar limits, allows an immediate deduction of the cost of equipment, machinery, off-the-shelf computer software and certain building improvements.
Sec. 179 has been enhanced by the TCJA, but the availability of 100% bonus depreciation is economically equivalent and has greatly reduced the cases in which Sec. 179 expensing is useful. If bonus depreciation is reduced and eliminated as scheduled, then the importance of Sec. 179 will return for many taxpayers.