Ainer & Fraker, LLP – Unfortunately, if you deduct actual expenses for business use of your car, you probably find your write-offs for depreciation restricted due to so-called luxury car limitations.

Most cars (including trucks or vans) fit the IRS definition of a “luxury vehicle,” regardless of their cost. If a vehicle is four-wheeled, used mostly on public roads, and has an unloaded gross weight of no more than 6,000 pounds, the car is considered a “luxury vehicle.”

To see how this works, let’s hypothetically say you and an associate each bought a car. Your car costs $50,000 while your associate’s costs $32,000. You both use your vehicles 75% for business. Cars are in the 5-year life depreciation category and the first-year depreciation for 5-year life items is 20%.  However, your depreciation deduction for the year (including any choice to expense part of the car’s cost) will be subject to the first-year “luxury vehicle” limitation, which is $3,160 for 2012.  However, there is a special 50% bonus depreciation allowance for 2012 which boosts the “luxury auto limitation” by $8,000 to a total of $11,160 for 2012. The limit is $200 more for trucks and vans.

Your Car
Associates Car
1. Vehicle Cost $50,000 $32,000
2. 50% Bonus Depreciation <25,000> 25,000 <16,000> 16,000
3. Balance 25,000 16,000
4. 20% First year Depreciation (20% of line 3)
5. Depreciation Before Limit
6. Luxury Auto Limit
7. Allowable Deduction (lesser of 5 or 6)

As you can see, both you and your associate’s depreciation for the first year is the same amount because of the luxury auto limits. Your associate will be able to deduct the same amount as you, even though his car had a much lower cost than yours.

Thus, your first-year depreciation (you used the vehicle 75% for business) will be $8,370 (11,160 x .75)

This may seem unfair, but there is an alternative that can help. Certain sports utility vehicles (a Suburban for example) exceed 6,000 pounds unloaded gross weight and have special rules.

The 50% bonus allowance applies to qualified purchases in 2013 and 2012. The depreciation limits for vehicles purchased in 2013 will not be released by IRS until late in the year but will be similar to the 2012 amounts.

John Erik Fraker, Esq.

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John Erik Fraker, Esq.

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