Understanding Depreciating Equipment for Taxes

Every business requires equipment to operate, which makes it essential to understand the concept of depreciation equipment for taxes. What assets depreciate? Depreciating assets can be anything from machinery and equipment to vehicles, and they can help you to recoup part of your total cost over the equipment’s lifetime. This can provide significant tax savings and help reduce your overall tax burden, which helps small businesses save money. 

Depreciation is an annual income tax deduction that enables you to recover the cost or other basis of specific property as it wears down over time. You can only claim depreciation on property used for business or investment purposes, not on items held for personal use source.

As a business owner, knowing how to calculate depreciation on your equipment correctly is crucial for maximizing tax deductions and managing your finances. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with the various methods and rules for calculating depreciation, ensuring compliance with tax regulations and accuracy in your financial records.

Understanding Depreciation and Its Importance

Depreciation is a crucial concept for businesses, as it allows you to allocate the cost of a tangible or physical asset over its useful life. Simply, it represents how much of an asset’s value is used over time. This accounting method helps your company manage the wear and tear, deterioration, or obsolescence of assets like equipment, vehicles, and buildings.

You can deduct depreciation expense from your taxable income, effectively reducing your tax liability. The IRS has specific guidelines on calculating and claiming depreciation deductions, typically using the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) for assets placed in service after 1986. For properties placed in service before 1987, you must use the Accelerated Cost Recovery System (ACRS) or the same method you used in the past source.

Proper management of depreciation is vital for several reasons. First, it helps you accurately track expenses, leading to better financial planning and decision-making. Understanding concepts like what is a fixed asset, depreciation cost, cumulative depreciation, salvage value vs. residual value, and straight-line depreciation method vs. accelerated depreciation method helps you be a better business owner. It gives you a foundation to make well-informed choices about your assets.

Next, deducting depreciation expenses lowers your company’s taxable income. This can mean significant tax savings, allowing you to invest more funds into your business or expand. Moreover, a thorough understanding of depreciation calculations can help you maximize tax deductions legally, ensuring compliance with IRS rules and avoiding potential penalties.

Lastly, depreciation plays a role in evaluating the financial health of your business. By monitoring the depreciation of your equipment, you gain valuable insights into its performance and lifespan. This information can be helpful when analyzing the efficiency of your assets, managing maintenance schedules, and determining the need for repairs or replacements.

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Depreciation Methods Explained

Since depreciation is such an important concept for businesses, there are two main methods you can use to calculate depreciation for tax purposes. They are straight-line depreciation and accelerated depreciation, which include the Accelerated Cost Recovery System (ACRS) and the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS).

Straight-line depreciation is a straightforward method that allocates an equal amount of depreciation expense to each year of the asset’s useful life. To calculate straight-line depreciation, you subtract the asset’s salvage value from the asset’s original cost and then divide the result by the asset’s useful life in years. This method is simple to apply and helps you predict depreciation expenses for assets throughout their lifetimes. While the straight-line depreciation method is the most commonly used, other methods may be more suitable depending on the situation.

Accelerated depreciation methods allocate a more significant proportion of an asset’s cost to the early years of its useful life, while the remaining cost is depreciated in later years at a lower rate. These methods are typically used when assets are expected to be more productive in their early years or when the asset’s value decreases rapidly over time. Two widely known accelerated depreciation methods exist: the Accelerated Cost Recovery System (ACRS) and the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS).

  • ACRS is an older accelerated depreciation method introduced in the United States in 1981. The main feature of the ACRS is that it uses predetermined recovery periods and depreciation rates, depending on the class of property. This method simplifies the calculations and lets you quickly determine your depreciation expense based on the asset’s class.
  • MACRS is the current method of accelerated depreciation used in the U.S. for tax reporting purposes. It was introduced in 1986 as an amendment to the ACRS and is known for providing a more accurate representation of an asset’s loss in value over time. Under MACRS, assets are categorized into fixed recovery periods, and depreciation rates are determined using a prescribed table, with the option to choose between a declining balance or a straight-line method. The IRS provides guidelines on applying the MACRS, including specific recovery periods and depreciation expense for different types of assets.

Assets Eligible for Depreciation

When it comes to the depreciation of equipment for taxes, it’s vital to understand which assets are eligible for depreciation. As a business owner, you can generally depreciate property used in your business or held for the production of income. This includes both tangible and intangible property.

Tangible property, such as machinery, furniture, computers, and vehicles, can be depreciated if it has a useful life longer than one year and wears out over time. For instance, you can claim for equipment depreciation on items like copiers, computer equipment, office furniture, manufacturing equipment, and tools.

Intangible property, such as patents, copyrights, and licenses, can also be depreciated. These assets are often called “capital assets” because they give your business a competitive edge and contribute to its earning power.

It’s important to note that although you can depreciate real estate used for business purposes, the land itself is not depreciable. However, specific land improvements, like landscaping, parking lots, and fences, can be depreciated because they wear out over time.

Vehicles used for business purposes are also eligible for depreciation. Remember that if you use a vehicle for personal and business reasons, only the portion related to business use can be depreciated.

Another category of assets that can be depreciated is listed property. This includes assets often used for personal and business purposes, like computers, cameras, and cellular phones. To claim depreciation on these items, you must be able to prove that they are predominantly used for business purposes.

Remember to keep accurate records of your fixed assets as you work on depreciating your business’s assets. This includes information on when the assets were placed in service, their cost, and their useful life. By staying organized and informed about the assets eligible for depreciation, you can make the most of your tax deductions and keep your business running smoothly.

Depreciation of Specific Property Types

When it comes to depreciating equipment for taxes, you’ll find that different property types have varying depreciation rules and lifespans. I’ll give an overview of the various categories where depreciation expenses come into play and discuss them later in the article.

Buildings: Generally, the depreciation of buildings is based on the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS). The IRS uses a 39-year recovery period for commercial buildings, while residential rental properties have a 27.5-year recovery period. To calculate MACRS depreciation for buildings, you’ll need to divide the cost of the building (excluding the land value) by the appropriate recovery period.

Vehicles: Depreciating vehicles depends on their business use percentage and the method chosen for depreciation. The IRS allows two main methods: the standard mileage rate and the actual expense method. If you use the actual expense method, you must apply MACRS to calculate vehicle depreciation. Remember that a maximum Section 179 expense deduction of $27,000 for sport utility vehicles placed in service in tax years beginning in 2022.

Machinery: You can depreciate machinery, such as manufacturing equipment, using MACRS depreciation over a designated recovery period. The recovery period varies based on the type of machinery but typically falls between 5 and 7 years. When claiming depreciation for machinery, it’s essential to consider whether the Section 179 deduction applies, which allows you to expense the cost of qualified machinery up to a limit of $1,080,000 for tax years beginning in 2022.

Office Equipment: Items like computers, printers, and furniture can be depreciated using MACRS with a recovery period of 5 or 7 years, depending on the specific equipment type. Similar to machinery, you can also utilize the Section 179 deduction for qualifying office equipment.

Calculating Depreciation

To calculate equipment depreciation, consider its cost, value, age, and useful life. The calculation is aimed at helping you recover the asset’s value over its useful life. There are different methods available to calculate depreciation, but one of the most common methods is the straight-line method for depreciation.

To use the straight-line method, you first need to determine the initial asset cost and salvage value. The salvage value is the estimated worth of the asset at the end of its useful life. Subtract the salvage value from the initial cost to get the depreciable amount.

Next, determine the useful life of the equipment in years. The useful life is the length of time the asset is expected to be productive for your business. Divide the depreciable amount by the useful life to find the annual depreciation value. This will give you an equal amount of depreciation for each year over the asset’s useful life.

Here’s a simple example:

  1. Initial asset cost: $10,000
  2. Estimated salvage value: $2,000
  3. Useful life: 5 years

Depreciable amount = Initial cost – Salvage value = $10,000 – $2,000 = $8,000

Annual depreciation expense = Depreciable amount / Useful life = $8,000 / 5 = $1,600

In this example, your equipment will depreciate by $1,600 annually for five years. By the end of its useful life, the equipment’s value will equal its estimated salvage value.

Remember that different industries and accounting standards may require alternate depreciation methods, such as the double-declining balance method or the units-of-production method. Consult with an accountant or tax advisor to ensure you use the appropriate method for your situation.

Regularly update your depreciation calculations as the equipment’s value, age, and other factors change. Accurate depreciation recording can help you understand your asset’s depreciation schedule, salvage value, and improve your tax planning.

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Depreciation of Machines

Depreciation allows you to recover the cost of machinery and equipment over the time you use them, which can significantly reduce your tax liability.

To start the depreciation process, you need to determine the useful life of the machines. The IRS provides a MACRS Asset Life table that specifies the asset lives for various types of machinery and equipment. Use this table to determine the appropriate useful life for your machines.

Next, calculate the depreciation rate using the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS). This method takes the cost of the machine, its useful life, and applicable recovery periods into account. To maximize the tax benefits, choose the appropriate MACRS method for your machines, either the General Depreciation System (GDS) or the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS).

Once you have the depreciation rate, apply it to the cost of the machine. This will give you the annual depreciation amount you can claim as an income tax deduction. Remember that the percentage of business use versus personal use of the machinery should be considered, as only the business use portion is eligible for depreciation.

For example, let’s say you purchased a machine for $10,000 with a useful life of 5 years. Using the MACRS method, you might determine that the depreciation rate is 20% per year. Multiply $10,000 by 20% to get the annual depreciation amount of $2,000. If you use the machine only 80% for business purposes, you can claim a $1,600 ($2,000 * 80%) depreciation deduction on your taxes.

Office Supplies and Maintenance

When running a business, it’s necessary to understand the difference between office supplies and maintenance expenses, as they have different tax implications. Office supplies, such as pens, staplers, and paper clips, are traditional items used in an office setting. Other office supplies include janitorial and cleaning supplies, invoices and sales receipts, paper towels, and utensils1.

Maintenance and repair expenses, on the other hand, are the costs incurred to keep your equipment, machinery, and other assets in good operating condition. Common examples of these expenses include routine service, repairs, and maintenance contracts2.

Office supplies are typically expensed on your business income statement (P&L) and taken as a deduction on your business taxes in the year they are purchased3. Keep receipts for all office supplies to ensure accurate record-keeping and tax documentation.

For equipment, buildings, and asset costs, you can depreciate these purchases over time instead of deducting the amount at once. This allows you to spread the asset’s cost over its useful life and deduct a portion of the cost on your tax return each year4.

For tax years beginning in 2022, the maximum Section 179 expense deduction is $1,080,000. This limit is reduced by the amount by which the cost of Section 179 property placed in service during the tax year exceeds $2,700,0006. Remember that personal property cannot be depreciated, and only the business or investment use portion of property, like a car, can be depreciated5.

Maintaining accurate records of your office supplies and maintenance expenses is crucial for tax planning and business management. It allows you to optimize deductions, control costs, and make informed decisions about equipment upgrades or replacements.

Stay organized, stay on top of your expenses and internal bookkeeping, and consult with a tax professional if you have any questions or concerns about depreciation costs, deductions, or any other financial matters related to your business.


  1. https://www.thebalance.com/office-expenses-supplies-taxes-398957
  2. https://www.thebalancemoney.com/business-equipment-vs-supplies-for-business-taxes-397638
  3. https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-regs/depreciation_faqs_v2.pdf
  4. https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc704
  5. https://www.irs.gov/publications/p946

Special Provisions: Section 179 and Bonus Depreciation

Regarding depreciating equipment for taxes, there are two key provisions to consider: Section 179 and Bonus Depreciation. These allow you to deduct the cost of business assets more quickly, often benefiting your bottom line.

Section 179 is a provision in the Internal Revenue Code that allows you to expense the total purchase price of qualifying equipment and/or software bought during the tax year. This means you can deduct the entire purchase price on your business income return, potentially saving a significant amount on your taxes. In 2022, the maximum Section 179 expense deduction is $1,080,000, but remember that the total deduction cannot exceed your earned income (net business income and wages) for the given year.

On the other hand, Bonus Depreciation is an additional first-year depreciation deduction that allows businesses to write off the cost of most depreciable business assets. This deduction applies to both new and used property, unlike Section 179, which is limited to new property acquisitions. The bonus depreciation provision often provides 100% depreciation in the first year the asset is placed in service. This can be particularly helpful when your Section 179 deduction limit is exceeded.

When applying these provisions to your business property, it’s vital to make strategic decisions. Depending on your specific situation, you may use one provision, both, or none at all. However, to maximize your tax savings, consider consulting a tax advisor or CPA to help identify the best depreciation methods for your business.

Tax Year Considerations

When it comes to depreciating equipment for taxes, there are several aspects to consider within a specific tax year. Depreciation allows you to recover the cost of your assets over time, accounting for wear and tear, deterioration, or obsolescence. You must adequately depreciate your equipment for tax purposes in order to lower your taxable income and maximize your tax deductions.

Choosing a Depreciation Method: The IRS provides various depreciation methods to calculate the annual allowable deductions for your equipment. One popular method is the Section 179 deduction, which allows you to expense up to $1,080,000 of qualifying equipment in the year it’s put to use for business instead of spreading the deduction over multiple years source. Another option is bonus depreciation, which permits a 100% deduction of new equipment purchases in the year they are placed in service source.

Timing Matters: To take advantage of the depreciation deduction, you must place the equipment in service within the tax year. This means that it’s crucial to plan and time your purchases wisely for your financial statements. If acquiring a new asset close to the end of the tax year, consider your current and future tax situation before deciding whether to place it in service and take the deduction this year or defer it to the next tax year.

Taxable Income Limitations: The depreciation deductions you claim can’t exceed the estimated amount of your earned income for the tax year, including net business income and wages source. If your earned income is low in a particular year, you may not be able to take full advantage of depreciation deductions. In these cases, plan your equipment purchases and taxable income strategies accordingly.

Potential Limitations and Rules

In order to properly leverage equipment depreciation for taxes, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential limitations and rules governing depreciation deductions. By understanding these aspects, you can ensure compliance with tax laws while maximizing your deductions.

One key limitation is the dollar limit for depreciation deductions. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) increased the maximum deduction from $500,000 to $1 million for property that is placed in service. Keep in mind that this limit can change, so make sure to stay up-to-date on any adjustments made by the IRS. You can find this information on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website.

While you can depreciate various types of equipment, land can never be depreciated. Therefore, when claiming depreciation deductions for property that includes both land and buildings, it is essential to allocate the original purchase price between the land and the building components. One way to do this is by using the property tax assessor’s values to build a ratio of the value of the land to the building, as detailed in the IRS guidance on depreciation.

Another critical aspect to consider is the depreciable life of your equipment. Immediate expensing is an option for some properties; however, not all items qualify. Generally, you’ll need to spread the deduction of an equipment’s cost over its useful life, which could be impacted by factors such as wear and tear, deterioration, or obsolescence.

In some instances, special depreciation rules apply to specific types of property, such as automobiles or listed property. For example, computers and related peripheral equipment are not considered listed property, and there are unique limitations and requirements for depreciating these assets and their salvage value, as per the IRS Topic No. 704, Depreciation.

Lastly, keep in mind that depreciation deductions can be affected by other limitations related to your business, such as wages and gross income. Always consult the IRS guidelines or a tax professional to ensure that you are accurately reporting your deductions and staying within the legal bounds. By staying informed and diligent, you can effectively leverage depreciation deductions to reduce your taxable income and maximize your business profits.

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Our team of experienced CPAs is here to help! Request a quote today and let us handle your tax needs with expertise and personalized solutions.

Reporting Depreciation

When it comes to reporting depreciation on your tax return, you need to take a systematic approach. To ensure accuracy and compliance, consider consulting a tax advisor for guidance on the best methods to calculate depreciation. Generally, there are three primary methods to depreciate business assets: straight-line depreciation, Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS), and Section 179 deduction.

To report depreciation, use Form 4562, Depreciation and Amortization. This form helps you compute the depreciation deduction for qualifying property and provides a detailed report of the depreciation amounts. You’ll need to fill in the required information, such as the type and cost of the property, the date it was placed in service, and the appropriate depreciation method. Once you have calculated the depreciation for all your depreciable assets, transfer the totals to their respective lines on your tax return.

For example, if you are reporting depreciation for a property utilized in your business, you would enter the depreciation amount on your Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business. On the other hand, if you are depreciating a property used for investment purposes, you should report the depreciation on your Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses.

In summary, reporting depreciation on your tax return involves identifying the eligible assets, selecting the appropriate depreciation method, completing Form 4562, and transferring the calculated amounts to the relevant tax schedules. Consult a tax professional if you need further guidance or have questions about accurately depreciating your equipment and complying with tax regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the process for depreciating equipment under MACRS?

To depreciate equipment under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS), you first need to determine the applicable depreciation method, period of recovery, and convention. MACRS includes the General Depreciation System (GDS) and the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS). Typically, you use GDS unless your equipment is specifically required to use ADS. You can refer to the IRS Publication 946 for detailed information on different classes of property and their recovery periods.

How does IRS Publication 946 guide depreciation methods?

IRS Publication 946 (2022) guides how to depreciate property, including the various depreciation methods available, such as straight-line and different accelerated methods. It also offers information about the Section 179 deduction, which allows you to expense a portion of the cost of qualifying property in the year it is placed in service.

Which industries have specific equipment depreciation lives?

Certain industries have specific equipment depreciation lives assigned by the IRS. For instance, the farming industry has unique depreciation schedules for machinery, equipment, and certain livestock. It is essential to consult IRS Publication 946 and other industry-specific guidelines to determine the appropriate depreciation life for your equipment.

How does the IRS calculate vehicle depreciation?

Vehicle depreciation is calculated using the MACRS method, which includes specific depreciation rates for passenger automobiles and light trucks. In some cases, the Section 179 deduction may allow you to deduct a portion of the cost of a qualifying vehicle in the year it is placed in service. The IRS has limitations for luxury and sport utility vehicles; in 2022, the maximum Section 179 expense deduction for sport utility vehicles is $27,000.

Are there any exceptions to the general equipment depreciation rules?

Yes, there are exceptions to the general equipment depreciation rules. For example, land cannot be depreciated, and certain assets, like inventory, are not eligible for depreciation. Additionally, leasehold improvements may have specific depreciation rules depending on the lease term and the nature of the improvement. It is essential to consult the IRS guidelines to ensure your equipment qualifies for depreciation and that the correct method is applied.

Disclaimer: This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult a tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction or submitting any IRS form.
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Ramin Mohammad

Ramin Mohammad is a lawyer and CPA with over 15 years of experience including working in audits, teaching, and in big law. Ramin helps clients on both personal and business related tax issues ranging from a multitude of practice areas including tax structuring, planning and cross jurisdictional taxes. His client-base expands throughout the US and overseas offering tax consulting, tax planning and tax preparation.

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