Tax Tips for Entrepreneurs and Business Owners – Part 2: The Section 179 Expense Deduction

This is the second article in the Tax Tips for Entrepreneurs and Business Owners series, which highlights a few of the frequent federal tax audit issues for business owners and provides some tips for avoiding federal tax compliance problems. This article focuses on the Section 179 expense deduction and its importance for the entrepreneur or small business owner.

What is the Section 179 Expense Deduction?

Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code provides a very helpful tool for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Section 179 allows a business to expense–meaning claim a current tax deduction rather than depreciating over a number of years–certain property purchased during the tax year. This is very important for start-ups and small businesses, because it enables the entrepreneur or small business owner to: (i) purchase a useful or necessary business asset to help generate revenue; and (ii) save cash on current tax liability. As many readers will appreciate, saving cash for reinvestment and acquiring equipment or property needed to build revenue are essential for growing a new venture or scaling a small business. So, how can you determine whether the property you bought for your business qualifies for Section 179 expensing?

What Qualifies for Section 179 Expensing?

To qualify for Section 179 deduction, your property must be:

  1. Eligible Property; and
  2. Purchased for Business Use.

Generally, eligible property includes tangible personal property (such as machinery and equipment, vehicles, computers, telephones, office furniture, etc.), certain other tangible property, off-the-shelf computer software, and some other specific property. The determination of whether a particular piece of property qualifies for Section 179 expensing can be very technical and complex, and there are numerous restricted types of property that will not be eligible for this special deduction. So, you should consult with a tax attorney and your accountant before claiming the Section 179 deduction as to your business property purchases for a given year.

As noted above, property must be purchased for business use to be eligible for Section 179 expensing. Property is considered to be for business use when more than 50% of its use will be in business operations during the year it is placed in service. If property is used for both business and nonbusiness purposes, the business owner can take a proportionate deduction under Section 179 (provided, of course, that the business use is more than 50%). To calculate the proportionate Section 179 deduction, multiply the cost of the property by the percentage of business use and use the resulting amount to determine your Section 179 deduction.

What is the Dollar Limit on Section 179 Deductions?

Usually, the purchase price of qualifying property is the amount for Section 179 expensing (subject to any business-personal use apportionment, of course). But, Section 179 also includes dollar limits and an income limits on the deduction, which vary based on the facts and circumstances. For instance, certain property (such as passenger automobiles) is subject to specific dollar limitations for Section 179 expensing. Based on recent extension by Congress, though, the 2014 general dollar limitation for Section 179 deductions is $500,000. This means that a business owner can deduct up to $500,000 of qualifying property purchases under Section 179 for this year. Finally, it is important to note that the Section 179 deduction is reduced dollar for dollar to the extent the cost of eligible property purchased for the year exceeds $2 million. So, if you purchased qualified property for a total cost of $2.5 million and placed it in business service in 2014, the Section 179 deduction would be unavailable.

BizAndTaxHax Tips: Significantly, unless Congress again acts to extend the increase ($500,000), the dollar limit on Section 179 expensing is set to fall back to $25,000 for tax year 2015. So, if you made large capital asset purchases in 2014, it is important to coordinate with a tax lawyer and your accountant to properly expense the eligible property under Section 179 at return filing time. Otherwise, you may miss out on significant current tax savings if Congress does not extend the $500,000 deduction limit for 2015.

An experienced tax lawyer can help you determine whether particular property qualifies for Section 179 expensing, and assist with keeping the required documentation to support the deduction. If you are a Columbus or Ohio entrepreneur or small business owner and need help preparing for tax return filing season and planning for the future, contact me for a free initial consultation.