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Vehicles and Section 179

One of the more popular uses of the Section 179 Deduction has been for vehicles. In fact, several years ago the Section 179 deduction was sometimes referred to as the “Hummer Tax Loophole,” because at the time it allowed businesses to buy large SUV’s and write them off. While this particular use (or abuse) of the tax code has been modified with the limits explained below, it is still true that Section 179 can be advantageous in buying vehicles for your business.

Vehicles used in your businesses qualify - but certain passenger vehicles have a total depreciation deduction limitation of $11,060, while other vehicles that by their nature are not likely to be used more than a minimal amount for personal purposes qualify for full Section 179 deduction. Here are the general guidelines for using the Section 179 Deduction for vehicle purchases (full policy statement available at: IRS.gov ).

Update / IRS Guidelines for Vehicles in 2014

The IRS has not yet released guidance concerning Section 179 and Bonus Depreciation as it relates to vehicles for the year 2014. The guidance will be published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin sometime after April 15th. So be patient, and check back here often for the release date.

There are a number of qualifications for vehicles, all with varying tax treatment. Please refer to page 6 of these Instructions for Form 2106 to read the exact IRS language.

What are the limits on Typical Passenger Vehicles?

For passenger vehicles, trucks, and vans (not meeting the guidelines below), that are used more than 50% in a qualified business use, the total deduction for depreciation including both the Section 179 expense deduction as well as Bonus Depreciation is limited to $11,060 for cars and $11,160 for trucks and vans.

Exceptions include the following vehicles:

  • Ambulance or hearse used specifically in your business;
  • Taxis, transport vans, and other vehicles used to specifically transport people or property for hire;
  • Qualified non-personal use vehicles specifically modified for business (i.e. van without seating behind driver, permanent shelving installed, and exterior painted with company’s name).

Limits for SUVs or Crossover Vehicles with GVWR above 6,000lbs
Certain vehicles (with a gross vehicle weight rating above 6,000 lbs but no more than 14,000 lbs) qualify for expensing up to $25,000 if the vehicle is financed and placed in service prior to December 31 and meet other conditions.

What Vehicles Qualify for the full Section 179 Deduction?

Many vehicles that by their nature are not likely to be used for personal purposes qualify for full Section 179 deduction including the following vehicles:

  1. Heavy “non-SUV” vehicles with a cargo area at least six feet in interior length (this area must not be easily accessible from the passenger area.) To give an example, many pickups with full-sized cargo beds will qualify (although some "extended cab" pickups may have beds that are too small to qualify).
  2. Vehicles that can seat nine-plus passengers behind the driver's seat (i.e.: Hotel / Airport shuttle vans, etc.).
  3. Vehicles with: (1) a fully-enclosed driver's compartment / cargo area, (2) no seating at all behind the driver's seat, and (3) no body section protruding more than 30 inches ahead of the leading edge of the windshield. In other words, a classic cargo van.
Other Considerations

Vehicles can be new or used (“new to you” is the key).

The vehicle can be financed with certain leases and loans, or bought outright.

The vehicle in question must also be used for business at least 50% of the time - and these depreciation limits are reduced by the corresponding % of personal use if the vehicle is used for business less than 100% of the time.

Remember, you can only claim Section 179 in the tax year that the vehicle is "placed in service" - meaning when the vehicle is ready and available - even if you're not using the vehicle. Further, a vehicle first used for personal purposes doesn't qualify in a later year if its purpose changes to business.

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This website was designed to answer your questions regarding the Section 179 Tax Deduction, and to explain the impact the various Stimulus Acts have had on Section 179. The information on this site will clearly explain the Section 179 Deduction in plain terms; will go over what property qualifies under Section 179 for the deduction; and will explore the myriad of ways the Section 179 deduction can impact your bottom line. In addition, there are IRS tax forms and also tools for you to use, such as the free Section 179 Deduction Calculator currently updated for the 2014 tax year.