Bonus Depreciation: For qualified assets acquired and placed in service through Dec. 31, 2012, this additional first-year depreciation allowance is, generally, 50%. Among the assets that qualify are new tangible property with a recovery period of 20 years or less and off-the-shelf computer software. With a few exceptions, bonus depreciation is scheduled to disappear in 2013.
Section 179 Expensing: This election allows a 100% deduction for the cost of acquiring qualified assets, and it’s subject to different rules than bonus depreciation. On the plus side, used assets can qualify for Sec. 179 expensing. On the minus side, a couple of rules may make Sec. 179 expensing less beneficial to certain businesses:
- For 2012, expensing is subject to an annual limit of $139,000, and this limit is phased out dollar for dollar if purchases exceed $560,000 for the year. So larger businesses may not benefit.
- The election can’t reduce net income below zero. So for businesses that are having a bad year, it can’t be used to create or increase a net operating loss for tax purposes.
The expensing and asset purchase limits are scheduled to drop to $25,000 and $200,000, respectively, in 2013.
Challenges: Determining whether the larger 2012 deductions will prove beneficial over the long term could cause challenges. Taking these deductions now means forgoing deductions that could otherwise be taken later, over a period of years under normal depreciation schedules. In some situations, future deductions could be more valuable. For example, tax rates for individuals are scheduled to go up in 2013, which means flow-through entities, such as partnerships, limited liability companies and S corporations, might save more by deferring the deductions.
Congress: Keep an eye on Congress; it’s possible the current versions of these breaks could be extended or even enhanced.