Section 179, useful life, and recapture

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by Jay Ray, Nov 25, 2004.

  1. Jay Ray

    Jay Ray LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,510

    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?
  2. tiedeman

    tiedeman LawnSite Fanatic
    from earth
    Messages: 8,745

    I thought that the useful life would be 3 years. I could be wrong though.
  3. cleancutccl

    cleancutccl LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 698

    The useful life would be the period that the property can be depreciated over. In the case of a lawn mower, must be used at least 50% for business, is depreciated over 5 years. So if you use the 179 deduction and the use of the mower falls under 50% business use during the 5 year depreciation period you will have a prorated portion of your deduction to pay back.
    The 179 deduction is a great thing, but you must use it over the depreciation period. If you are weary of getting hurt or losing business and owing money, you might look at using the 30% special depreciation allowance instead. You would deduct only 30% of the cost, instead of the full 100%, and then depreciate the rest over 5 years. Less money to pay back if worse came to worse.
  4. MacLawnCo

    MacLawnCo LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,847


    if you are really that worried about this, just do straight line depreciation and there realy should be no issues. Or, you could do units of production with say 2000 hours as the estimated useful life and base your depreciation on the hours incured in 2005 x ($8000/2000 hrs) if you want to be exact. Are you made of glass or something for you to be so worried about a disabling injury? :p
  5. Jay Ray

    Jay Ray LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,510

    Thanks Tiedeman, Cleancut, and MacLawn. Hardly made of glass but always trying to reduce risk -- I almost always use a mulch plate even tho it takes a little longer.

    The 30% special depreciation sounds like a good option.

    My wife said buy the mower, get some sit-down time so as not to work quite as hard in the heat, and that will reduce the risk.

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