Small Business Tax FAQ

If I buy a new computer this year, do I have to deduct the cost over a five-year period?

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If I buy a new computer this year, do I have to deduct the cost over a five-year period?

Probably not. Under Section 179, you can deduct in one year the cost of tangible personal property that you buy for your business (such as computers, office furniture, and equipment). This is a major exception to the general rule that the cost of capital equipment -- equipment that has a useful life of more than one year, such as a computer system -- must be deducted over a number of years.

There is a limit to the total amount of business property expenses that you can deduct each year under Section 179. For 2012 and 2013, the limit is $500,000 with a phase-out if you purchase more than $2,000,000 of equipment in one year. This annual limit is scheduled to go down to $25,000 in 2014. Many small businesses can fit all of their capital expenditures each year into the $500,000 allotted amount. 

Section 179 doesn't apply to land, buildings, inventory, intangible assets, and air conditioning and heating units. It does apply to vehicles, but special rules limit the portion of the cost of a car that you can depreciate each year.

There is also a special bonus depreciation deduction for property placed in service in 2012 and 2013. Under this provision, taxpayers can depreciate 50% of the cost of qualified property during the first year the property is placed in service. For more information, see Deduct It! Lower Your Small Business Taxes, by Stephen Fishman (Nolo).

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