Accelerated Depreciation

Definition of "Accelerated depreciation"

Lydia Macinta real estate agent

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Lydia Macintaelite badge icon

Towering Pines Real Estate

The accelerated depreciation definition is a type of depreciation that makes it possible for a homeowner or real estate investor to depreciate their property faster than the straight-line depreciation allows in the early years of the property. In other words, the accelerated depreciation is a way to enable a much bigger depreciation rate in the first few years of ownership while also decreasing the depreciation rates for the later years of the possession’s life.

Accelerated depreciation in real estate

Depreciation or straight-line depreciation is the typical depreciation that every asset goes through. As the years’ pass, the asset is affected by wear and tear, and its initial value diminishes. This declining value that affects the asset every year is known as depreciation. In real estate, properties are also affected by depreciation, and businesses are allowed by the IRS to depreciate their assets (residential or commercial properties) during their useful lives. This depreciation helps businesses to gain tax savings that can then be invested back into the business. However, time limits this depreciation as commercial and residential properties are allowed by the IRS to depreciate over 27.5 or 39 years. That is where accelerated depreciation comes in and provides for faster depreciation.

How does Accelerated Depreciation Work?

Since President Ronald Regan signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 with its accelerated cost recovery system (ACRS), which was replaced with the modified accelerated cost recovery system (MACRS) in 1986, accelerated depreciation was possible. 

This legal accounting practice allows the faster depreciation of a property during a much shorter period of time and is sanctioned by the IRS through MACRS. Property owners that want an accelerated depreciation on their property will need a cost segregation study. For example, some land improvements can be depreciated through MACRS for 15 years with a declining balance of 150%. Owners can depreciate personal property for 5 or 7 years with a declining balance of 200%.

The reasoning behind accelerated depreciation is that an asset, not particularly properties, is more heavily used during the first years of its life when it is new and functional. This is why that use at the beginning of the asset’s life should match the asset’s depreciation. 

For example: To simplify the situation, we’ll look at something simple like a pair of headphones. When they are brand-new, the owner uses them all the time, but as months and years go by, the headphones age, new and better models are available on the market, and the initial pair of headphones is set to the side and used less often. As the asset ages, its importance lessens, but when it was new, it was continuously used.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Accelerated Depreciation

The most significant advantage of accelerated depreciation is reducing a company’s tax liability and its taxable income. This benefit allows companies to have more cash flow to invest back into the company and their products through marketing strategies that can increase their revenue.

The major disadvantage of accelerated depreciation is that it requires a cost segregation study, which costs money. In case a rental property investor is just starting their rental business, their revenues might be limited, and investing in a cost segregation study might not be the best investment. The tax situation of a business might not require an accelerated depreciation as not every business can benefit from it.

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