Section 179 Deduction: A Simple Guide


Janet Berry-Johnson, CPA


Reviewed by

Camea Franklin, EA, MBA


January 13, 2022

This article is Tax Professional approved


What is Section 179?

Section 179 allows businesses to deduct the full cost of capital assets (like furniture and equipment) right away rather than depreciating them over their useful life. This can help businesses significantly reduce their tax bill in a given year.

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What’s the purpose of Section 179?

The Section 179 deduction offers businesses a way to deduct large costs, such as software packages, equipment, furniture, and other major business purchases made or financed during the tax year, as an expense. This gives businesses an easy way to reduce their tax bills.

How the Section 179 deduction works

Taking advantage of Section 179 is a simple three-step process.

1. Make sure your asset is eligible

To qualify for a Section 179 deduction, your asset must be:

  • Tangible. Physical property such as furniture, equipment, and most computer software qualify for Section 179. Intangible assets like patents or copyrights do not. Buildings and land also don’t qualify, although some equipment attached to the building does, including things like fire suppression systems, alarms, and air conditioning units.
  • Purchased. Leased property doesn’t qualify.
  • Used more than 50% in your business. An asset that is primarily for personal use but occasionally used for the business isn’t eligible.
  • Not acquired from a related party. This includes siblings, spouses, parents, grandparents, descendants and businesses, trusts, and charitable organizations with which you have a relationship.

2. Start using the asset

Section 179 rules require you to start using the asset in your business to take the deduction. For example, if you purchase a piece of equipment in December of 2023 but don’t start using it until 2024, you would have to wait until your 2024 tax return to claim the Section 179 deduction for that asset.

3. Claim the deduction

You claim the Section 179 deduction on Part I of Form 4562. You’ll have to include a description of the property, its cost, and the amount of Section 179 you’re claiming for that asset on Line 6. If you need more room, you can attach a list to Form 4562.

Section 179 spending cap and limits

A few limits apply to the Section 179 deduction.

1. The deduction starts to slip away after spending $2,700,000

For 2023, you can expense up to $1,160,000 of eligible property. However, if you spend more than $2,890,000 on qualifying property that year, your deduction will be reduced on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

For example, if your business purchases $3,000,000 of property, you’ll have gone over the cap by $110,000. So your maximum Section 179 expense will be $1,050,000 ($1,160,000 minus $110,000).

2. Your net income is the ceiling

Your Section 179 deduction is also limited to your business’ net income for the year—you can’t deduct more money than you made. For example, if you have net income of $50,000 before taking the Section 179 deduction into account, and you purchased $60,000 worth of eligible property, your deduction is limited to $50,000. At that point, you can opt to take regular depreciation on the remaining assets.

In that scenario, you missed out on $10,000 worth of Section 179 deductions because you didn’t make enough money that year. But there’s hope! You can carry that $10,000 deduction forward to next year, as long as your net income allows it.

Claiming Section 179 on vehicles

There’s one more limit to Section 179 expensing that applies to vehicles. Several years ago, a loophole in the rules allowed businesses to write off the full cost of large SUVs (like Hummers). Lawmakers closed that loophole by establishing limits for expensing vehicles.

Vehicles that qualify for the full Section 179 deduction:

  • Vans that can seat nine or more passengers, such as hotel or airport shuttles
  • Vehicles with a fully enclosed driver’s compartment and no seating behind the driver’s seat, such as a cargo van
  • Heavy construction equipment
  • Tractor-trailers

Section 179 and qualifying property

Here’s a list of property that qualifies for the Section 179 deduction:

  • Machinery
  • Computer software
  • Office equipment
  • Vehicles, as mentioned above

The property must be used for your business more than 50 percent of the time in order to qualify for the Section 179 deduction.

Getting the 179 deduction with a tax professional

If you’re unsure of whether you can take the Section 179 deduction, give Bench a try. With a Bench subscription, you get access to a tax professional year round, in addition to automated bookkeeping. Our tax professionals are there to ensure you take advantage of every deduction, including 179, available to you. Knowing how to expense certain property can decrease your tax bill—but going into tax season with total confidence is priceless.

Claiming the Section 179 deduction can be a huge tax break for your small business, especially if you decide to purchase needed machinery and equipment before year-end. If you’re wondering how it will impact your deductions, talk to your accountant or tax advisor before making any big decisions.

This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. Bench assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.
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