Vernoia, Enterline + Brewer, CPA LLC

Taxpayers that place new business assets other than real property in service through 2012 may claim a “bonus” depreciation deduction. Although the bonus depreciation deduction is generally equal to 50 percent of the cost of qualified property, the rate has been increased by recent legislation to 100 percent for new business assets acquired after September 8, 2010 and placed in service before January 1, 2012. Thus, the entire cost of such 100 percent rate property is deducted in a single tax year rather than over the three- to 20-year depreciation period that is normally assigned to the property based on its type or the business activity in which it is used.

Every business should consider taking advantage of 100 percent bonus depreciation while it is available this year. Ironically, the benefits of 100 percent bonus depreciation are so favorable that some of the regular tax rules standing guard under normal circumstances to prevent abuses are being unintentionally triggered. The IRS has now come to the rescue with a few clarifications, elections and workarounds, in the form of Rev. Proc. 2011-26.

The most important clarifications/elections provide:

–A taxpayer is deemed to acquire qualified property when it pays or incurs the cost of the property.

–Bonus depreciation may be claimed at the 100 percent rate even though a pre-September 9, 2010 binding acquisition contract was in effect provided the contract was not in effect before January 1, 2008.

–Qualified property that a taxpayer manufactures, constructs, or produces is considered acquired by the taxpayer when the taxpayer begins constructing, manufacturing, or producing that property.

–A taxpayer may elect to claim 100 percent bonus depreciation on a component of a larger property if the component is acquired after September 8, 2010 even though manufacture, construction, or production of the larger property began before September 9, 2010.

–A taxpayer may elect the 50 percent rate in place of the 100 percent rate but only in a tax year that includes September 9, 2010.

Election Procedures for 2009/2010 FY Taxpayers

Special procedures that mainly affect fiscal-year (FY) 2009-2010 taxpayers who filed returns prior to the reinstatement of bonus depreciation for the 2010 calendar year explain how to claim or not claim the bonus deduction on property placed in service in 2010.

“Safe Harbor” Enhances Bonus Depreciation for Cars

The guidance also provides an important benefit to taxpayers who purchase a new automobile in 2010 or 2011 that is eligible for the 100 percent bonus rate but which is subject to annual depreciation caps because the vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating of 6000 pounds or less. The benefit comes in the form of a “safe harbor method of accounting,” which allows a taxpayer to claim depreciation deductions in each year of the vehicle’s depreciation period.

If this safe harbor method of accounting is not adopted, a taxpayer may only claim a depreciation deduction in the tax year that the vehicle is purchased and that deduction is limited to the amount of the first-year depreciation cap ($11,060 for cars and $11,160 for trucks and vans placed in service in 2010).

If the safe harbor method is adopted, a taxpayer may claim the amount of the first-year depreciation cap in the year the vehicle is purchased plus additional amounts in each of the next five tax years of the vehicle’s regular depreciation period.

In most cases, the amount of depreciation allowed in each year of a vehicle’s recovery period under the safe harbor method is the same amount that could have been claimed if the 50 percent bonus rate applied.