As of this this writing, the status of equipment expensing for 2014 is unclear. The same is true for bonus depreciation. The ongoing uncertainty on these issues may have an impact on your year-end plans to acquire business equipment.
Section 179 of the tax code allows certain types of equipment to be expensed: the purchase price is fully tax deductible when the item is placed in service, rather than deducted over a multi-year depreciation schedule. New and used equipment qualify for this tax benefit, with some exceptions (such as real estate).
In recent years, Congress has consistently expanded the reach of Section 179. By 2013, up to $500,000 of purchases of equipment eligible for the deduction could be expensed; a business could buy up to $2 million worth of eligible equipment that year before losing any of this benefit.
Example 1: In 2013, DEF Corp. bought $2,085,000 of business equipment eligible for the Section 179 expense deduction and elected to not take bonus depreciation on the equipment. This was $85,000 over the Section 179 limit, so DEF could deduct only $415,000 (the $500,000 ceiling minus $85,000) as an expense in 2013 under Section 179. DEF must recover the other $1,670,000 of the costs of its 2013 purchases through depreciation methods.
The $500,000 and $2 million limits for Section 179 expired after 2013. Under current law, the 2014 limit for expensing is $25,000 worth of purchases (plus an inflation adjustment) with a phaseout beginning at $200,000 worth of purchases.
Similarly, bonus depreciation was available for new equipment until expiration after 2013. This provision allowed a 50% depreciation deduction on purchases of new equipment, before using an extended schedule to depreciate the balance. Currently, bonus depreciation is not permitted in 2014.
Dealing with doubts
Both houses of Congress have indicated interest in restoring an expanded Section 179 deduction as well as bonus depreciation for 2014. However, any updates probably won’t be announced until late in the year. If that’s the case, how should business owners and self-employed individuals proceed?
Start by acquiring any equipment that your company truly needs for current and future profitability. If your business needs the item now, buy it now, and deduct the cost as the tax law permits.
If the timing isn’t urgent, consider limiting purchases to those that will bring 2014 acquisitions up to $25,000, which will be the Section 179 ceiling if no extension is passed. Contact our office in late November or early December for an update on relevant legislation.
Keep in mind that equipment must be placed in service by the end of 2014 to qualify for depreciation deductions (if reinstated) or expensing this year, so merely paying for equipment in 2014 does not entitle you to a deduction. However, this also means that you can get the 2014 tax benefits for equipment placed in service in 2014 even if you defer payment for the equipment until 2015.