How Do I? Compute depreciation conventions at year-end?

Under the modified accelerated cost recovery system (MACRS) (which is more commonly known as depreciation), a half-year timing (i.e., averaging) convention generally applies to the depreciation deduction for most assets during anytime within the year in which they are purchased. That is, whether you purchase a business asset in January or in December, it’s treated for depreciation purposes as being purchased on July 1st. However, a taxpayer who places more than 40 percent of its depreciable property (excluding residential rental property and nonresidential real property) into service during the last three months of the tax year must use a mid-quarter convention – decidedly less advantageous. Because of the 40 percent rule, the purchase of a vehicle or other equipment in the last month of the tax year might, in itself, trigger imposition of the mid-quarter convention. Businesses should keep in mind the 40 percent rule especially for year-end tax planning purposes.

The applicable averaging convention is not elective. Rather, one of three conventions (half-year, mid-month, and mid-quarter) must apply.

Half-year convention. Under this convention, property is treated as placed in service, or disposed, on the midpoint of the tax year. Thus, one-half of the depreciation for the first year of the recovery period is allowed in the tax year in which the property is placed in service, regardless of when the property is placed in service during the tax year. The half-year convention applies to property other than residential rental property, nonresidential real property, and railroad grading and tunnel bores unless the mid-quarter convention applies

Mid-month convention. Under this convention, property is treated as placed in service, or disposed of, on the midpoint of the month. The MACRS deduction is based on the number of months that the property was in service. Thus, one-half month of depreciation is allowed for the month that property is placed in service and for the month of disposition if there is a disposition of property before the end of the recovery period. The mid-month convention applies to residential rental property (including low-income housing), nonresidential real property, and railroad grading and tunnel bores.

Mid-quarter convention. Under this convention, all property (other than the property otherwise excluded) placed in service, or disposed, during any quarter of a tax year is treated as placed in service, or disposed, on the midpoint of the quarter. A quarter is a period of three months. The mid-quarter convention applies to all property (other than residential rental property, nonresidential real property, and railroad grading and tunnel bores) if more than 40 percent of the aggregate bases of such property is placed in service during the last three months of the tax year.

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Content provided by CCH. If and only to the extent that this publication contains contributions from tax professionals who are subject to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, the publisher, on behalf of those contributors, hereby states that any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in such contributions was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.

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