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Businesses Get Boost With 100-percent Bonus Depreciation and Code Sec. 179 Expensing

January 13, 2011

Businesses will benefit from a number of extended and enhanced tax breaks under the recently enacted Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 (2010 Tax Relief Act).  The 2010 Tax Relief Act boosts 50 percent bonus depreciation to 100 percent through 2011 and provides increased Code Sec. 179 expensing in 2012.

100 percent bonus depreciation

The 2010 Tax Relief Act benefits businesses by increasing 50 percent bonus depreciation to 100 percent for qualified investments made after September 8, 2010 and before January 1, 2012 (before January 1, 2013 for certain longer-lived and transportation property).  Thus, businesses that bought qualifying property after September 8, 2010 but before December 17, 2010 (the date of enactment of the 2010 Tax Relief Act) in anticipation of using 50 percent bonus depreciation received a welcome surprise as they will benefit from 100 percent bonus depreciation.

This provision is especially beneficial for businesses because bonus depreciation, unlike Code Sec. 179 expensing, is not limited to smaller companies, or capped at a certain dollar level.  However, only new property qualifies for the 100 percent bonus depreciation (unlike Code Sec. 179 expensing, which can be claimed for both new and used property).

Example.  In January 2011, Big Co., a calendar year business, buys $1 million of qualifying property eligible for the 100 percent bonus depreciation deduction.  Under the 2010 Tax Relief Act's enhanced 100 percent bonus depreciation provision, Big Co. will be able to claim a $1 million depreciation deduction for the property on its 2011 tax return.

Post-2011 depreciation

Although enhanced 100 percent bonus depreciation is not extended into 2012, the new law does provide 50 percent bonus depreciation for qualified property placed in service after December 31, 2011 and before January 1, 2013.

Option to take refundable credits in lieu of bonus depreciation

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (2009 Recovery Act) provided that a corporation otherwise eligible for additional first-year depreciation may elect to claim additional research or minimum tax credits in lieu of claiming depreciation for qualified property placed in service after March 31, 2008 and before December 31, 2008. The 2010 Tax Relief Act generally extends similar treatment for two years, through December 31, 2012.

Code Section 179 expensing

Over the years, Congress has repeatedly increased dollar and investment limits under Code Sec. 179 to encourage spending by businesses.  For tax years beginning in 2010 and 2011, the 2010 Small Business Jobs Act increased the Code Sec. 179 dollar and investment limits to $500,000 and $2 million, respectively.  For tax years beginning in 2012, the new law provides for a $125,000 dollar limit and a $500,000 investment limit (both indexed for inflation).  Without this provision, the dollar and investment limits would have reverted to $25,000 and $200,000, respectively, for tax years beginning after 2011.  Amounts that are not eligible for expensing due to excess investments cannot be carried forward and expensed in a later year; they may only be recovered through depreciation.

Off-the-shelf computer software.  The 2010 Tax Relief Act also provides that off-the-shelf computer software qualifies as eligible property for Code Sec. 179 expensing.  The software must be "placed in service" (used) in a tax year beginning before 2013.


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