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What is depreciation?

IRS Publication 946, How To Depreciate Property, explains it this way:

Depreciation is an annual income tax deduction that allows you to recover the cost or other basis of certain property over the time you use the property. It is an allowance for the wear and tear, deterioration, or obsolescence of the property.

In other words, it is the method by which a business can expense part of the cost of an asset each year over the asset's recovery period.

What is MACRS depreciation?

MACRS or Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System is, in my opinion, a needlessly complicated system, designed by Congress and implemented by the IRS, for depreciating the cost of assets. MACRS replaced ACRS (Accelerated Cost Recovery System) in 1986.

This MACRS Depreciation Calculator supports nearly all the nuances and conventions of the Internal Revenue Code. It includes support for qualified and listed assets including motor vehicles. While the calculator is capable of depreciating nearly any asset, if you want to use it correctly, you'll need to familiarize yourself with Publication 946 (linked above).

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With all other calculators on this site, I attempt to provide detail instructions for their use. That is impossible when it comes to using the MACRS Depreciation Calculator. As mentioned, the writers of the IRC (Internal Revenue Code) have made the subject of depreciation needlessly complicated.

Nonetheless, below is some general guidance on the calculator's use. Much of it comes directly from IRS Publication 946.

What Property Can Be Depreciated?

IRS Pub. 946 p.3:

You can depreciate most types of tangible property (except land), such as buildings, machinery, vehicles, furniture, and equipment. You also can depreciate certain intangible property, such as patents, copyrights, and computer software.
  • It must be property you own.
  • It must be used in your business or income-producing activity.
  • It must have a determinable useful life.
  • It must be expected to last more than one year.

Options, settings, and inputs explained

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Basis - The basis is frequently the cost of the asset. Frequently, but not always. The basis for real estate is always different than the contract purchase price. If you are depreciating property, you must deduct the value of the land. But, you also add to the basis your settlement costs. For example (Pub. 946 p 12):

  • Legal and recording fees.
  • Abstract fees.
  • Survey charges.
  • Owner's title insurance.
  • Amounts the seller owes that you agree to pay, such as back taxes or interest, recording or mortgage fees, charges for

Business Use - If the asset is not used entirely for business, enter the percentage that is for business use. If you enter $100,000 for basis and business use is 80%, then the basis for depreciation (adjusted basis) is $80,000. (The calculator makes this calculation of course.)

Asset Being Depreciated - This has no impact on the calculation. It is included here so that when you print a schedule, it will include the identity of the asset.

Placed Into Service - The date when the asset is available for use. You should note that the business does not have to be using the asset. As long as it is available, the asset is in service.

179 Deduction - The basis is lowered by any 179 deduction that you take.

IRS Pub. 946 p.2:

What’s New for 2019

Section 179 deduction dollar limits. The maximum amount you can deduct for most section 179 property you placed in service in tax years beginning in 2019 is $1,020,000. This limit is reduced by the amount by which the cost of section 179 property placed in service during the tax year exceeds $2,550,000.Also, the maximum section 179 expense deduction for sport utility vehicles placed in service in tax years beginning in 2019 is $25,500.

IRS Pub. 946 p.14:

You can elect to recover all or part of the cost of certain qualifying property, up to a limit, by deducting it in the year you place the property in service. This is the section 179 deduction. You can elect the section 179 deduction instead of recovering the cost by taking depreciation deductions.

Recovery Period -

IRS Pub. 946 p.31:

The recovery period of property is the number of years over which you recover its cost or other basis. It is determined based on the depreciation system (GDS or ADS) used.

The recovery periods available is determined by the depreciation method selected. The calculator automatically limits the choice of recovery periods to the ones that are appropriate for the method selected.

In general, recovery periods are longer under ADS than they are under GDS.

Depreciation Method - Currently, the taxpayer may select from one of four depreciation methods. Three methods fall under GDS and one under ADS. Two GDS methods use a declining balance equation that has the effect of accelerating the tax benefit.

IRS Pub. 946 pp.29 - 30

The Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) is used to recover the basis of most business and investment property placed in service after 1986. MACRS consists of two depreciation systems, the General Depreciation System (GDS) and the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS).

Which Depreciation System (GDS or ADS) Applies?

Your use of either the General Depreciation System (GDS) or the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS) to depreciate property under MACRS determines what depreciation method and recovery period you use. You generally must use GDS unless you are specifically required by law to use ADS or you elect to use ADS.

IRS Convention - The three conventions establish when the recovery period begins and ends.

IRS Pub. 946 p.32

The mid-month convention: Under this convention, you treat all property placed in service or disposed of during a month as placed in service or disposed of at the midpoint of the month. This means that a one-half month of depreciation is allowed for the month the property is placed in service or disposed of.
The mid-quarter convention: Under this convention, you treat all property placed in service or disposed of during any quarter of the tax year as placed in service or disposed of at the midpoint of that quarter. This means that 11/2 months of depreciation is allowed for the quarter the property is placed in service or disposed of.
The half-year convention: Under this convention, you treat all property placed in service or disposed of during a tax year as placed in service or disposed of at the midpoint of the year. This means that a one-half year of depreciation is allowed for the year the property is placed in service or disposed of.

Special Allowance - calculated. "Qualified Asset" must be set to "Yes" (see below).

IRS Pub. 946 p.22

You can take a special depreciation allowance to recover part of the cost of qualified property (defined next), placed in service during the tax year. The allowance applies only for the first year you place the property in service. The allowance is an additional deduction you can take after any section 179 deduction and before you figure regular depreciation under MACRS for the year you place the property in service.

Qualified Asset -

Your property is qualified property if it is one of the following:

  • Qualified reuse and recycling property.
  • Certain qualified property acquired before September 28, 2017.
  • Certain qualified property acquired after September 27, 2017.
  • Certain plants bearing fruits and nuts.

Is Asset a Vehicle?:

Type of Vehicle - The vehicle type impacts the amount that a taxpayer can take in depreciation each year. (Prior to 2018.)

Listed Asset -

IRS Pub. 946 p.51

Listed property is any of the following:

  • Passenger automobiles (as defined later).
  • Any other property used for transportation, unless it is an excepted vehicle.
  • Property generally used for entertainment, recreation, or amusement (including photographic, phonographic, communication, and video recording equipment).

Note: The calculator will not create an accurate schedule that incorporates a short tax year.

IRS Pub. 946 p.43

A short tax year is any tax year with less than 12 full months. This section discusses the rules for determining the depreciation deduction for property you place in service or dispose of in a short tax year. It also discusses the rules for determining depreciation when you have a short tax year during the recovery period (other than the year the property is placed in service or disposed of).
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35 Comments on “Macrs Depreciation Calculator”

financial online calculator Join the conversation. Tell me what you think.
  • I have been a CPA for over 40 years. You are spot on about how needlessly complicated the IRC has made depreciation.
    Excellent calculator to check prior years depreciation for new clients.

  • Do I file a form every year or only the year the asset is placed in service? Or just keep a record of the calculations in case of audit?
    Thanks!

    • Not knowing your individual tax circumstances, I can’t answer specifically. But in the US, in the past, depreciation had been a deductible business expense each year.

  • It doesn’t let me calculate ADS straight line for business vehicle used 50% or less in qualified business use and placed in service in 2015.
    Can you help here?

    • With options you’ve selected, the calculator displays this message:

      "Not a valid depreciation method for vehicles when business use is 50% or less. Use a straight line method."

      Which means per the IRS regulations, the settings are not valid for depreciation.

      Do you have information to the contrary?

      • Hi Karl,
        Thanks for your reply!
        The way I read the Publication 946 and from looking at form 4562, Part V, line 27, one can depreciate listed property such as a vehicle used 50% or less for business, they just need to use ADS straight line. ADS straight line is the option I had selected in the above calculator and it still won’t calculate it. Let me know if I missed something.

        • No problem.

          I’ll have to check that. In the meantime, I think you can get the correct answer by setting "Is asset a vehicle?" to "No." At the point straight line depreciation is required, whether or not the asset is a car or truck doesn’t matter. Straight line is straight line. I checked and the calculator did create a schedule once this setting was changed.

    • It is working, at least for me. What device and browser are you using? After the page loads, without making any changes, click on the "Calc" button. Do you see the depreciation schedule?

    • Yes, that can be arranged. The minimum charge for a custom calculator is $5,000. If interested, please reach me via the "contact" below.

      Of course, you can use this calculator and then copy / paste the results into Excel as well.

  • Please show the calculations. I’m trying to figure out the depreciation of a vehicle with bonus, and the figures in your table make absolutely no sense, and I can’t duplicate the results with calculating by hand. Show the math.

    • I never discuss the math or the equations. That’s a bottomless pit and not the intent of this site. The site’s purpose is to provide tools to help users make decisions.

      That said, however, if you have a calculation example that does not match one found in the IRS Publication 946, I’ll be happy to take a look at it, and to make any necessary corrections. Please note in the text on this page, there are a few depreciation calculations this calculator does not support. Also, this has not been updated for any changes per the 2017 tax law changes. My understanding is that those changes impacted limits and not the underlying calculation itself.

  • MONICA WILLIAMS says:

    First, I am glad I found this site. It seems you are very helpful. My problem is I LITERALLY DO NOT UNDERSTAND ANY OF THIS. I have a take home test and I cannot understand to what I am doing or the §179, etc. This is a take home test for a class I have in college (just to become familiar with taxation). How do I calculate:
    On July 2, 2018 purchased a commercial building $600,000 and purchased a residential building Jun 15, 2018 $400,000. What is total depreciation for both buildings in 20198 and 2019 using the MACRS.

    • What part don’t you understand? Did you read the text on this page?

      As to finding the total. I would approach it by calculating the depreciation for each building and then adding them together. But I would be careful. Only because normally, residential buildings are not depreciated. So that part might be a trick. 🙂

  • if i brought a house in California en 2017 for 120.000. with S/L method how much I can depreciate annually. in my taxes 2018

    • I don’t answer tax questions. It’s not appropriate. For one thing, in the US, often tax questions can’t be answered in isolation. Meaning, the answer depends on other variables. (I assume, the house isn’t your primary residence and that it’s an income producing property? If it isn’t, then you most likely can’t depreciate it.)

    • You’re welcome. My intention is to show all the years. If you click calc with the calculator’s defaults, the basis is $1,000 and the accumulated depreciation is $1,000. There’s nothing left to show.

      You must have found a bug. Can you tell me what your inputs were that you were using?

      • Sorry should have been more specific… as an example, I acquired a property in may 2015. I depreciated it according to your MCARS calculator in ’15, ’16, ’17. In 2018 however I sold the property however in May 2018. In this case, using the mid-month convention, I can (for 2018) depreciate (I believe!) 5.5/12 of a normal full year depreciation (May being month 5 + half month 0.5 = 5.5/12). It’s a simple calculation, but I just thought you may want to include it in your calculator. Rgds.

        • I see your point. I’ll certainly try to add a sold date with next update (hopefully this year). Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Hi there. I’m trying to calculate a Vehicle, however I get an error.

    Not a valid “Placed into Service Date” for vehicles. Supports years 2005-2016.

    The vehicle in question is a work truck 2019.
    The other vehicle is a forklift 2018.

    • Thank you Kimberly for bringing this to my attention. I’ll take a look and try to get it fixed in the next week. Sorry for the delay.

    • I updated the MACRS depreciation calculator with the maximum depreciation amounts for vehicles. So you won’t get the error about not supporting years after 2016.

  • I have a single family residential rental property I rented out for 214 days in 2019. My cost basis purchase price plus improvements to rent is $406,983. Can I use that gross amount to depreciate or do I need to deduct land value according to tax bill of $33,236? This rental property supplements my social security income; my gross income will be less than $45,000. Tax preparers want $450 to $700 to prepare my tax return. Your input would be greatly appreciated.

    • While you may appreciate my input, it is most likely to be wrong, and therefore, it could cost you a lot more than $450 or $700 in penalties and interest!

      Sorry, but I’m not qualified to answer such tax questions.

  • Question, what if business use % is different each year?

    2017 First Year was 53%as I just started drumming up business and
    2018 was 78% and 2019 was 80%.

    • Rick, sorry, but I don’t know. I never researched this possibility. As you can see, the calculator is not designed to handle such a scenario.

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