Bonus Depreciation: Meaning and How it Works


Bonus depreciation offers businesses a unique tax advantage by allowing immediate deductions for a significant portion of eligible asset purchases. Instead of spreading the cost over an asset’s useful life, this incentive stimulates investment and accelerates tax savings. Discover how bonus depreciation works, its history, qualifying assets, reporting methods, and more in this comprehensive guide.

Bonus depreciation, also known as the additional first-year depreciation deduction, empowers businesses to deduct a substantial portion of eligible asset costs upfront, as opposed to spreading them over the asset’s “useful life.” This accelerates tax savings and stimulates investment, effectively reducing tax liability. By understanding how bonus depreciation functions, businesses can optimize their tax strategies.

Understanding Bonus Depreciation

Bonus depreciation stands as an accelerated tax deduction, contrasting with traditional asset depreciation. Instead of gradual allocation over an asset’s life, businesses can deduct a fixed percentage of eligible asset costs immediately. While the total expense remains unchanged, bonus depreciation offers notable tax benefits. For instance, deducting a substantial amount in a single year can influence tax brackets and reduce the highest marginal tax rate.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was pivotal, doubling the bonus depreciation deduction from 50% to 100%. This law also extended the bonus to cover certain used property. However, the landscape of bonus depreciation has evolved over time, with rules and limits changing, influencing tax strategies and investment decisions.

History of Bonus Depreciation

Bonus depreciation has evolved over two decades, altering the criteria for eligible property and the bonus depreciation rate. Legislation such as the Job Creation and Worker Assistance Act (2002), the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (2017), and more have shaped its trajectory. With changing rates and conditions, businesses need to stay informed about the latest developments.

Qualifying Assets for Bonus Depreciation

To benefit from bonus depreciation, businesses must possess assets that meet specific qualification requirements. These assets should have a maximum useful life of 20 years, be suitable for business or personal use, and meet additional criteria set by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Recent revisions have expanded eligible assets, encompassing categories like film, television, or theater property acquired after September 27, 2017.

Disqualified Assets

While bonus depreciation offers advantages, certain assets are excluded from claiming this benefit. Assets primarily used in specific trades, like furnishing energy or sewage services, and qualified improvement property acquired after December 31, 2017, are examples of disqualified assets. Staying informed about these exclusions is crucial for effective tax planning.

How to report bonus depreciation

Reporting bonus depreciation involves the use of IRS Form 4562, which covers depreciation, amortization, and listed property information. Taxpayers calculate their bonus depreciation amount under Part II, Line 14, while considering the asset’s basis, credits, and deductions. Special considerations apply to assets acquired through exchange or involuntary conversion, ensuring accurate reporting.

Bonus depreciation schedule and phase out

The timeline of bonus depreciation is critical for businesses aiming to maximize its benefits. The bonus depreciation rules, applicable to property placed in service between September 27, 2017, and January 1, 2023, include a phase-out schedule extending until 2026. Understanding this schedule enables businesses to strategically plan their asset acquisitions and tax strategies.

Two prevalent depreciation-related tax benefits, bonus depreciation, and Section 179 deductions, offer distinct advantages. While both reduce taxable income, they differ in flexibility, capped deductions, and timing considerations. Businesses must weigh their unique circumstances and objectives to decide between these strategies.

Benefits of Bonus Depreciation

The benefits of bonus depreciation are significant for businesses seeking immediate tax relief. This tax incentive allows a full deduction of depreciation upfront, reducing short-term tax liabilities. By utilizing bonus depreciation, businesses can efficiently manage their tax burdens and enhance their financial standing.

Choosing whether to take bonus depreciation depends on individual business objectives and tax strategies. Opting for bonus depreciation can help minimize short-term tax liabilities and create opportunities for future tax planning. Careful consideration of potential long-term consequences and consultation with financial advisors is crucial in making an informed decision.

Eligible assets for bonus depreciation include MACRS property with a useful life of 20 years or less, certain computer software, and qualifying leasehold improvement property. Taxpayers need to understand the criteria for eligibility and how they apply to specific asset categories to make the most of this tax incentive.

Key Considerations for Bonus Depreciation

When deciding whether to utilize bonus depreciation, businesses should take into account the following key considerations:

Impact on tax liability

While bonus depreciation offers immediate tax relief, consider how it might affect your tax liability in the long term. Accelerated deductions in one year may lead to lower deductions in subsequent years, potentially resulting in higher tax payments down the line.

Asset investment plans

Review your company’s asset investment plans. Consider whether your business intends to make substantial asset purchases in the near future. Bonus depreciation can be particularly advantageous when you anticipate significant capital expenditures.

Qualifying assets

Ensure that the assets you plan to acquire meet the eligibility criteria for bonus depreciation. This includes verifying that they have a useful life of 20 years or less and fall within the specified asset categories. Consulting with tax professionals can help in asset selection.

Combining bonus depreciation with section 179

Explore the possibility of combining bonus depreciation with Section 179 deductions, where applicable. This can provide additional tax benefits, but be mindful of deduction limits and eligibility requirements for each strategy.

Long-term financial goals

Consider your business’s long-term financial goals and objectives. While bonus depreciation can offer short-term advantages, it’s essential to align it with your broader financial and tax planning strategies.

Bonus depreciation and small businesses

Small businesses, in particular, can benefit from bonus depreciation, as it allows them to recover their investment in capital assets more quickly. Here are some specific considerations for small businesses:

Cash flow management

For small businesses, cash flow management is critical. Bonus depreciation provides an opportunity to improve cash flow by reducing tax liabilities in the short term, which can be especially beneficial for startups and growing businesses.

Equipment and technology upgrades

Small businesses often need to invest in equipment and technology to remain competitive. Bonus depreciation can make it more financially feasible to upgrade or expand your business’s capabilities.

Tax planning for profits

Small businesses with anticipated profits can use bonus depreciation to offset their taxable income, potentially resulting in lower tax bills. This can free up capital for other business needs or investments.

Consultation with tax professionals

Small businesses should consider consulting with tax professionals who specialize in small business taxation. They can provide tailored advice on how to maximize the benefits of bonus depreciation for your specific situation.

Making Informed Decisions

Bonus depreciation can be a valuable tool for businesses seeking to reduce tax liabilities and stimulate investment. However, its benefits and implications are contingent on individual business circumstances and goals. By carefully evaluating the considerations mentioned above and consulting with financial and tax advisors, businesses can make informed decisions regarding bonus depreciation to align with their overall financial strategies.


Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.

  • Immediate tax relief: Bonus depreciation enables businesses to deduct a substantial portion of eligible asset costs upfront, leading to immediate tax savings.
  • Stimulates investment: By allowing accelerated deductions, bonus depreciation encourages businesses to invest in eligible assets, supporting economic growth.
  • Reduced Tax liability: Accelerated depreciation can lower a company’s taxable net income, leading to reduced tax liability and potential savings.
  • Flexibility in timing: Bonus depreciation allows businesses to claim deductions in the year of acquisition, providing flexibility in managing tax planning.
  • Higher deductions: Businesses can deduct up to 100% of eligible asset costs, making it beneficial for higher spending and significant investments.
  • Short-Term Benefit: Bonus depreciation offers immediate tax relief but may result in higher tax liabilities in subsequent years due to reduced depreciation deductions.
  • Complex Reporting: Accurate reporting of bonus depreciation requires calculations on IRS Form 4562, involving detailed asset information.
  • Phase-Out Schedule: Bonus depreciation rates decrease over time, with the provision scheduled to expire, affecting long-term tax planning strategies.
  • Eligibility Restrictions: Not all assets qualify for bonus depreciation, and certain asset categories are disqualified from claiming the benefit.
  • Strategic Considerations: Choosing between bonus depreciation and other tax strategies requires careful evaluation of business goals and circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is bonus depreciation?

Bonus depreciation is a tax incentive that allows businesses to immediately deduct a substantial percentage of the purchase price of eligible assets, rather than spreading the deduction over the asset’s useful life. This accelerates tax savings and encourages investment.

How does bonus depreciation work?

When a business acquires eligible assets, it can deduct a fixed percentage of the asset’s cost upfront as a tax deduction. This deduction reduces the business’s taxable net income and lowers its tax liability for the year of acquisition.

What are the benefits of bonus depreciation?

Bonus depreciation offers immediate tax relief, stimulates investment, and reduces tax liabilities. It allows businesses to deduct a significant portion of eligible asset costs in the year of acquisition, enhancing cash flow and supporting economic growth.

Are there drawbacks to bonus depreciation?

While bonus depreciation provides short-term benefits, it can lead to higher tax liabilities in subsequent years due to reduced depreciation deductions. Reporting bonus depreciation accurately involves complex calculations, and the phase-out schedule and eligibility restrictions must be considered.

What assets qualify for bonus depreciation?

Eligible assets for bonus depreciation include MACRS property with a useful life of 20 years or less, certain computer software, and qualifying leasehold improvement property. However, some assets are disqualified, such as those used in specific trades.

How is bonus depreciation reported?

Bonus depreciation is reported on the federal tax return using IRS Form 4562. Taxpayers must calculate the bonus depreciation amount accurately and report it in the appropriate section of the form. The form also covers other types of depreciation and amortization.

Can I choose not to take bonus depreciation?

Yes, taxpayers can elect not to deduct bonus depreciation and instead recognize depreciation over the asset’s useful life. However, this decision should be carefully considered, as it impacts tax liability and future tax planning.

How does bonus depreciation compare to Section 179 deductions?

Bonus depreciation and Section 179 deductions both offer tax benefits, but they have differences in terms of flexibility, deduction limits, and timing considerations. Each strategy suits different business circumstances and goals.

Can I claim both bonus depreciation and Section 179 deductions?

Yes, it’s possible to claim both bonus depreciation and Section 179 deductions in the same tax year, depending on the assets and business situation. However, the decision should be aligned with your tax strategy and financial objectives.

Should I take bonus depreciation for my business?

The decision to take bonus depreciation depends on your business goals, financial situation, and tax strategy. Consulting with tax advisors and considering the long-term implications is essential in making an informed decision.

Key takeaways

  • Bonus depreciation accelerates tax savings by allowing upfront deductions for eligible asset costs.
  • Legislation changes have shaped the eligibility criteria and rates of bonus depreciation over the years.
  • Qualifying assets must meet specific requirements, while disqualified assets are excluded from claiming the benefit.
  • Reporting bonus depreciation requires accurate calculations using IRS Form 4562.
  • The phase-out schedule and expiration of bonus depreciation rules influence strategic tax planning.
  • Businesses must choose between bonus depreciation and Section 179 deductions based on their unique needs.
  • Bonus depreciation offers immediate tax relief and benefits businesses seeking to manage tax liabilities.
  • Individual business goals and circumstances determine whether to opt for bonus depreciation.
  • Eligible assets encompass various categories and criteria, requiring careful evaluation.
View Article Sources
  1. 2023 IRS finalizes regulations for 100 percent bonus depreciation – IRS
  2. Income Tax Federal Tax Changes – Georgia
  3. 2022 How Do Tax Policies Affect Individuals and Businesses? – Stanford