Bonus Depreciation vs. Section 179: What’s the Difference?

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When your business buys a piece of equipment, you’re supposed to spread the tax deduction over the asset’s life. But why wait? The Section 179 deduction and bonus depreciation are two ways to get your entire tax break upfront.

So what’s the difference between Section 179 and bonus depreciation? Section 179 lets business owners deduct a set dollar amount of new business assets, and bonus depreciation lets them deduct a percentage of the cost. In the past, bonus depreciation only covered 50% of an asset’s cost upfront, but the 2018 tax changes increased the rate to 100%, so now both methods let you deduct the entire cost in the same year. Section 179 gives you more flexibility on when you get your deduction, while bonus depreciation can apply to more spending per year.

When considering Section 179 vs. bonus depreciation, how do you know which works best for your business? We break down the main factors:

Key Points for Section 179

  • Annual limit on deduction: The maximum Section 179 deduction per year is $1 million, according to the IRS. If your business spends more than $2.5 million on a piece of equipment, the amount you are eligible to deduct starts to decrease.
  • Flexibility with timing: You can choose which purchases to cover under the Section 179 deduction and which to save as future tax breaks. You can even split the deduction for individual purchases. For example, claiming half the cost of a new car upfront while spreading the rest of the purchase over time.
  • Covers improvement to real estate: You can use the Section 179 deduction for real estate upgrades, like adding a new roof to your building. Bonus depreciation does not cover this category.

Construction company owner deducts heavy machinery with 179 deduction vs. bonus depreciation

Key Points for Bonus Depreciation

  • No annual limit on deductions: This deduction isn’t limited to cost, a stark difference between Section 179 and bonus depreciation. You can deduct your entire investment no matter how much you spend per year.
  • Can be larger than your business income: While a Section 179 deduction cannot be larger than your annual business income, bonus depreciation does not have this restriction. You can carry any unused deduction forward as a future tax break.
  • Less flexible, must apply to all assets: Unlike the Section 179 deduction, bonus depreciation must apply to 100% of an asset’s cost and all assets must be in the same category. If you use bonus depreciation for one 5-year asset, you’ll need to use it for all 5-year assets bought that year.

As a final note, you can use both bonus depreciation and the Section 179 deduction in the same year. Consult with your accountant to see what combo will deliver the most bang for your small business tax write-offs.

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