Saturday, March 20, 2010

Don’t Claim Depreciation?? Part V: Depreciation Recapture

This final installment in the series on whether to claim depreciation on a rental property or home office clarifies the term depreciation recapture. Since depreciation is an ordinary expense, without depreciation recapture a taxpayer could get an ordinary tax deduction in one year and then sell the asset in a later year and pay capital gains tax on the income that results from the basis reduction from depreciation. In addition to shifting income to a later year, this converts ordinary income into capital gain. This a great deal for the taxpayer. To prevent this, the depreciation recapture rules say that the portion of the gain that results from depreciation is taxed as ordinary income instead of capital gain. However, this is yet another area of the tax law where real estate investments really shine. Unlike other business assets, only the real property gain attributable to depreciation in excess of straight line depreciation is recaptured. Since real estate put into service after 1986 generally must be depreciated using the straight line method, there is typically no depreciation recapture on real property. However, there is unrecaptured Section 1250 gain, which is similar to depreciation recapture but uses a special “capital gains” tax rate not to exceed 25%. Since this is a capital gains rate, it is not technically depreciation recapture. While 25% is not as good as the capital gains rates for most assets, it sure beats paying tax at an ordinary rate of up to 35%.

© Michael Fitzsimmons, CPA, San Diego, CA