Maximizing Tax Savings with Section 1245 Property


Section 1245 is a critical aspect of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code that impacts the taxation of certain depreciable and amortizable property sales. This article delves into the definition of Section 1245, its implications, and how it affects your tax picture. Discover the nuances of Section 1245 property and its recapture features, and explore examples to grasp its real-world application.

Understanding Section 1245

Section 1245, nestled within the United States Code Title 26 (Internal Revenue Code), Subtitle A (income taxes), Chapter 1 (normal taxes and surtaxes), Subchapter P (capital gains and losses), Part IV (special rules for determining capital gains and losses), is a critical component of tax law that deserves close attention. In essence, it governs the taxation of gains from dispositions of specific depreciable property. To gain a comprehensive understanding of Section 1245, let’s explore its key aspects.

Section 1245 property

The IRS defines Section 1245 property as property that has been subject to an allowance for depreciation or amortization. This property falls into several categories:

1. Personal property (tangible or intangible): This category encompasses a wide range of assets, including machinery, vehicles, patents, and copyrights.

2. Other tangible property (excluding buildings): This category includes property integral to various activities, such as manufacturing, transportation, research, and bulk commodity storage.

Section 1245 recapture feature

Section 1245 serves as a mechanism to recapture allowable or allowed depreciation or amortization taken on section 1231 property. “Allowable or allowed” implies that the recaptured amount is based on the greater of the depreciation taken or what could have been taken but wasn’t.

To simplify, we will refer to both depreciation and amortization as simply “depreciation” throughout the rest of this article, keeping in mind that Section 1245 applies to both types of property.

Section 1245 background

Understanding Section 1245 property is easier when we grasp the rationale behind its creation. Congress introduced Section 1245 as a response to businesses benefiting from favorable tax treatment through depreciation deductions on their properties. Here’s a brief overview of how it all connects:

– Section 1231: This section initially favored businesses by allowing lower capital gains rates for gains and higher ordinary income rates for losses from property sales.

– Exploiting tax rates: However, many businesses took advantage of this system by claiming depreciation deductions on their properties and then selling them for a profit.

– Introduction of Section 1245: To counter this exploitation, Congress introduced Section 1245, which recaptures depreciation at ordinary income rates on properties sold at a gain. Section 1245 property is essentially section 1231 property that has been depreciated. It remains Section 1245 property until its depreciation is fully recaptured, at which point it becomes section 1231 property.

Tax implications of selling Section 1245 property

Now, let’s dive into the tax implications of selling Section 1245 property, both at a gain and at a loss, with a practical example.

Selling Section 1245 property at a gain

Imagine a business owns a widget with a cost of $100 and has claimed $75 in depreciation. The widget’s adjusted tax basis is $100 – $75 = $25. Now, if the business sells the widget for $150, they realize a gain of $150 – $25 = $125. Here’s how this gain is taxed:

– $75 of the gain is considered Section 1245 gain and is taxed at ordinary income rates.
– The remaining $50 of the gain is Section 1231 gain and is taxed at capital gains rates.

Selling Section 1245 property at a loss

If the same business sells the $100 widget for only $20, they incur a loss of $20 – $25 = -$5. Since there’s no gain, Section 1245 does not apply in this scenario. The $5 loss is categorized as a Section 1231 loss, and it’s considered ordinary.

In essence, selling Section 1245 property at a loss results in an ordinary loss, while selling it at a gain triggers a combination of ordinary income and capital gains taxation.

Section 1245 property types

When discussing Section 1245 property, it’s important to understand the different types of assets that fall under this classification. Let’s explore some common examples:

Tangible personal property

Tangible personal property refers to physical assets that can be touched and moved. This category includes items like machinery, vehicles, office equipment, and furniture. When a business sells tangible personal property and realizes a gain, Section 1245 may come into play.

Intangible personal property

Intangible personal property includes assets that lack a physical presence but hold significant value. Examples of this category are patents, copyrights, trademarks, and intellectual property. Gains from the sale of such assets may also be subject to Section 1245 rules.

Other tangible property uses

Apart from personal property, Section 1245 also encompasses certain types of tangible property used in specific ways. This can include assets that are integral to manufacturing, production, extraction, or those used in providing essential services like transportation, communications, electricity, gas, water, or sewage disposal. Additionally, research facilities and bulk storage facilities for fungible commodities fall under this category.

Section 1245 vs. Section 1231: A taxation comparison

To truly grasp the impact of Section 1245, it’s beneficial to compare it to its counterpart, Section 1231. Both sections play a pivotal role in determining the tax treatment of property sales, but they differ in crucial ways.

Section 1231: Capital gains and ordinary losses

Section 1231 primarily deals with the taxation of property sales by businesses. It allows for a favorable tax treatment, where gains are subject to lower capital gains rates while losses are treated as ordinary losses. This creates an incentive for businesses to invest and expand.

Section 1245: Recapturing depreciation

In contrast, Section 1245 steps in when businesses have already benefited from depreciation deductions on their property. It recaptures the depreciation at ordinary income tax rates if the property is sold at a gain. This helps prevent businesses from exploiting lower capital gains rates for gains and higher ordinary income rates for losses.


Section 1245 plays a crucial role in the taxation of depreciable and amortizable property sales, ensuring that businesses cannot exploit favorable tax rates for their gains. Understanding the classification of Section 1245 property and its recapture feature is essential for businesses and individuals navigating the complexities of U.S. tax law.

As you delve into the world of tax planning and property sales, remember that Section 1245 is a key factor that can significantly impact your tax liabilities. Always consult with a tax professional to ensure compliance with tax regulations and to optimize your financial strategies.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Section 1245 property, and why is it significant for tax purposes?

Section 1245 property refers to assets that have been subject to depreciation or amortization. It’s significant for tax purposes because it determines how gains from the sale of such property are taxed. Understanding Section 1245 is crucial for businesses to plan their taxes effectively.

How does Section 1245 differ from Section 1231?

Section 1245 and Section 1231 both impact the taxation of property sales, but they differ in their treatment of gains and losses. Section 1245 primarily deals with recapturing depreciation on property sold at a gain, while Section 1231 provides favorable tax rates for gains and treats losses as ordinary.

What types of property are considered Section 1245 property?

Section 1245 property includes personal property (tangible or intangible) and other tangible property (excluding buildings) used in specific activities. This can range from machinery and patents to research facilities and bulk commodity storage.

When does Section 1245 recapture depreciation, and at what tax rates?

Section 1245 recaptures depreciation when property subject to it is sold at a gain. The recaptured depreciation is taxed at ordinary income rates. This ensures that businesses cannot exploit lower capital gains rates for gains on depreciated property.

What happens if Section 1245 property is sold at a loss?

If Section 1245 property is sold at a loss, it does not trigger Section 1245 recapture. Instead, the loss is categorized as a Section 1231 loss and is treated as ordinary. There is no recapture of depreciation in the case of a loss.

Is there a way to avoid Section 1245 recapture?

Avoiding Section 1245 recapture is challenging because it applies when depreciation has been taken on property sold at a gain. However, proper tax planning and consulting with tax professionals can help optimize your tax strategy within the bounds of tax regulations.

Can Section 1245 property become Section 1231 property?

Yes, Section 1245 property can become Section 1231 property. This transition occurs when all depreciation on the property has been fully recaptured. Once that happens, the property is no longer subject to Section 1245 rules and is treated as Section 1231 property for tax purposes.

What are the key takeaways for understanding Section 1245 property?

The key takeaways include recognizing that Section 1245 property is subject to depreciation recapture when sold at a gain, understanding the types of property it encompasses, and being aware of the tax implications, such as ordinary income rates for recaptured depreciation and capital gains rates for remaining gains.

Key takeaways

  • Section 1245 recaptures depreciation or amortization allowed or allowable on tangible and intangible personal property at the time a business sells such property at a gain.
  • It taxes the gain at ordinary income rates to the extent of its allowable or allowed depreciation or amortization.
  • Section 1245 property encompasses personal property, other tangible property used in specific activities, research facilities, and bulk storage facilities for commodities.
  • It was introduced to rectify tax planning strategies that exploited lower capital gains rates for gains and higher ordinary income rates for losses on section 1231 property.
  • Section 1245 property morphs into section 1231 property once its depreciation is fully recaptured.
View article sources
  1. Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  2. Investopedia – Taxation of Section 1245 Property
  3. Cornell Law School – U.S. Code Section 1245