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Old 11-25-2004, 08:26 PM
Jay Ray Jay Ray is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: d"Iberville MS
Posts: 6,510
Section 179, useful life, and recapture

Hypothetical problem, but it is possible. I'm solo. I buy a new ZTR in Jan. 2005 for $8000. I expense 100% of it in 2005 under section 179 as full depreciation ($8000) against income. Terrific, and thank you, Mr. Bush.

Here is the hypothetical part: In Jan. 2006 suppose I happen to become disabled or seriously ill and have to close the business. Or suppose my wife becomes ill and I have to sell the mower to pay medical bills. The tax law says the ztr must be used at least 50% for business during the whole useful life of the equipment (one person told me it is an 80% business use requirement).

So what does the IRS consider as acceptable for the useful life of a ztr?

If the ztr is no longer being used for business in 2006 (due to disability, illness), then the remaining value of the mower has to be recaptured as income. Ouch.

If the acceptable useful life is 4 years, then I used up 25% of the depreciation before closing business (supposing a reversion to straight line depreciation for 4 years, just to keep it simpler) and would have to recapture $6000 (75% of the $8000) as income in the year I close business and stop using the mower or maybe as income in the next year.

What I am thinking is this: the longer the IRS defined useful life of the mower is, the greater is the the risk in taking the 100% deduction on section 179 (if something happens and I can't keep the ztr at 50%, or 80% business use, whichever is the requirement).

So the acceptable IRS useful life is a critical factor in my decision to buy the new mower or not. Once I take the whole $8000 depreciation expense in one year, I sure don't want to give a big chunk of it back.

I've been to the IRS site, searched and read til mine eyes glazed over, and could not make heads or tails on useful life. I understand what recapture is however, and that there is no way around it.

But if I cannot define useful life, then I cannot know or control my future tax risk in buying the ztr. Maybe I shouldn't buy it.

Does anyone know how the IRS determines the useful life of a ztr mower? How can you double check your accountant to make sure they are giving you the right answer to this question?
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