Tax Guru – Ker$tetter Letter

Helping real people win the tax game.

Archive for the ‘Vehicles’ Category

Double Depreciating Vehicles?

Posted by taxguru on August 3, 2009

Q:

Subject: Question about Section 179 Deduction

I was reading your website and had a question about section 179.

In 2007 I purchased an Expedition EL >6000 lbs. I took the $25,000 deduction, I am being audited and am being told that I can not take the milage deduction and the 179 deduction. I thought the 179 was a depreciation event and had nothing to do with deducting milage. Can you elaborate??

Thanks in advance

A:

I constantly warn people about the dangers of trying to prepare their own tax returns because it is all too easy to make simple mistakes such as the one you did.

With business vehicles, you generally have the option of claiming the IRS’s standard per mile deduction or the prorated actual expenses based on business miles to total miles for the year.

The standard mileage rate includes a factor for straight line depreciation. This was 19 cents per mile for 2007.

The Section 179 expensing election is basically a kind of very accelerated depreciation. If you claim it, you are required to use the actual expense method for that vehicle and you are not allowed to use the standard mileage rate ever for that particular vehicle because that would result in double deducting the same depreciation.

There is no nice way to say this; but you screwed things up big time by trying to deduct both Section 179 and the standard mileage rate on the same vehicle. Any professional tax preparer with even limited experience would know better than to do that.

With that kind of basic error in your tax return, there’s no telling what others you have as well, including many that probably cost you money. Before you go any further with the IRS auditor, you should hire a professional tax advisor to review your 2007 1040 and see if s/he can find some tax saving deductions that will offset the extra taxes that you are going to have to pay as a result of double deducting vehicle depreciation.

If you already prepared your own 2008 1040, you will also need to have a professional tax advisor fix the mistakes that it has.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of such bad news and I hope this helps you salvage some tax savings.

Kerry Kerstetter

Follow-Up:

Thanks for the quick response. The situation is not quite so bad, we found almost $20k in deductions missed.

Thanks again for your help

TaxCoach Software: Finally! Plain-English Tax Planning That Builds Your Business!

Posted in 179, Vehicles | Comments Off

Sec. 179 vs. Standard Mileage Rate

Posted by taxguru on March 19, 2009

Q:

Subject:  Re: section 179

Hi,

Thanks for your previous replies in the past. If you take a section 179 deduction can you still deduct  your businees mileage. O does the section 179 deuction fall under the itemised deductions therefore precluding mileage claims?

thanks

A:

You really need to be working with a professional tax advisor because you are mixing up different tax issues that are technically not connected.

As I have explained on several occasions, if you use Section 179 or any other accelerated method of depreciating a vehicle, you are required to use the actual cost method of calculating deductible vehicle expenses for that particular vehicle for as long as you own it.  You are not allowed to switch to the IRS’s standard per mile rate because that rate includes a portion for deprecation and to switch to it would end up giving you double deductions for deprecation.

The issue of the standard personal deduction versus Schedule A itemized deductions is completely separate from the issue of how the vehicle costs are calculated.  As always, it’s generally a good idea to keep track of all of your actual itemized deductions and use them on Schedule A if they are higher then the standard personal deduction.

I hope this helps; but you need to be working with a tax professional.

Good luck.

Kerry Kerstetter

 

Follow-Up:

Hi,

Thanks a lot.

 

 

Posted in 179, Vehicles | Comments Off

Vehicles qualifying for maximum Section 179

Posted by taxguru on March 9, 2009

From a client with a 3/31/09 corp year-end:

Dear Kerry:

Our corp is considering purchasing a van such as a delivery van (GMC, Chevy, etc.). 

Could you please inform me of the IRS specifications that must be met to allow us to expense the entire amount.

Before we would purchase the vehicle I will check with you to make sure it meets the requirements.

Thanks.

My reply:

As you requested, here are the specifications for what a vehicle has to have in order to qualify for deducting all of its cost in the first year. Basically, these rules are most important if a vehicle either weighs less than 6,000 pounds or costs less than $25,000.

I excerpted this from my main tax reference source, TheTaxBook. Section 280F is the part of the tax code that severely limits the deprecation deduction for vehicles.

Vehicles not subject to Section 280F. The following vehicles are not subject to the depreciation limitations under Section 280F or any of the other listed property rules:
• Clearly marked police and fire vehicles.
• Unmarked vehicles used by law enforcement officers if the use is officially authorized.
• Ambulances used as such and hearses used as such.
• Any vehicle with a loaded gross vehicle weight of over 14,000 pounds that is designed to carry cargo.
• Bucket trucks (cherry pickers), cement mixers, dump trucks, garbage trucks, flatbed trucks, and refrigerated trucks.
• Combines, cranes and derricks, and forklifts.
• Qualified specialized utility repair trucks.
• Tractors and other special purpose farm vehicles.
• A vehicle used directly in the business of transporting persons or property for pay or hire, including school buses, and other buses with a capacity of at least 20 passengers.
• A truck or van that is a qualified nonpersonal-use vehicle.

Qualified nonpersonal-use vehicles.
These are vehicles that by their nature are not likely to be used more than a minimal amount for personal purposes. They include trucks and vans that have been specially modified so that they are not likely to be used more than a minimal amount for personal purposes, such as by installation of permanent shelving and painting the vehicle to display advertising or the company’s name. Delivery trucks with seating only for the driver, or only for the driver plus a folding jump seat, are qualified nonpersonal-use vehicles.

Trucks and vans.
Trucks and vans are passenger autos built on a truck chassis, including minivans and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) that are built on a truck chassis. They have the same definition as passenger autos, except that instead of unloaded gross vehicle weight, the definition is gross vehicle weight not more than 6,000 pounds. The Section 280F depreciation limits for trucks and vans are higher than the limit for cars.

Vehicles over 6,000 pounds.
Passenger autos rated at more than 6,000 pounds unloaded gross vehicle weight, or trucks and vans rated at more than 6,000 pounds loaded gross vehicle weight are not subject to the Section 280F depreciation limits. However, such vehicles may still be considered listed property for purposes of the other listed property rules, including the requirement that the vehicle be used more than 50% for business to take the Section 179 deduction.

Remember that the expensing deduction is only allowed if you actually place the vehicle into service before the end of your tax year. It won’t be sufficient to prepay for it by March 31 and then take delivery later in your next fiscal year. You need to actually use it before the end of the day on March 31 in order to claim it on this year’s tax return.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any specific questions.

Kerry

Follow-up:

Kerry:

Could you please let me me know if any or all of the following vehicles qualify for deducting all of the cost in the first year.

1)  2009 GMC Sierra 2500 crew cab pickup.  GVWR = 9600 lbs.  Bed length = 77 inches.  This is the same model we purchased nd were able to deduct in 2006.  Price = $39,480

2)  2009 GMC Savanna 12 passenger van.  GVWR = 9600 lbs.  The seats can be removed.  Price = $33,027

3)  The dealer also has the same model 2008 GMC Savanna available for about $21,000

Thanks.

My Reply:

I looked over the vehicle descriptions you faxed over and compared them to the rules for the first year expensing.

1.  Because the 2009 GMC Sierra has an exterior bed of larger than 72 inches, it would qualify for deducting the entire purchase price of $39,480 plus the sales tax.

2.  Because the 2009 GMC Savanna has seats for so many people, it would only qualify for a first year deduction of $25,000 of its purchase price.  The remaining cost would be depreciated over five years.

3.  Because the 2008 GMC Savanna costs less than the $25,000 limit, its entire $21,000 purchase price plus sales tax could be expensed in the first year.

Besides the fact that the vehicle needs to be actually placed into service before the end of 3/31/09, which I mentioned last time, another important point is that the dollar figure we are working with is after deducting any trade in value the dealer may give you if you are swapping another vehicle for the new one.  For example, with vehicle number 1 above, if you are receiving a trade in credit of $10,000, only the net cost of $29,480 will be available to deduct in the first year.

I hope this is clear and not too confusing.  Let me know if you have any more questions.

Kerry

 

TaxCoach Software: Finally! Plain-English Tax Planing That Builds Your Business!

 

Posted in 179, Vehicles | Comments Off

Vehicles exempt from luxury car rules…

Posted by taxguru on December 12, 2008

We frequently discuss the 6,000 pound exemption from the luxury car depreciation limits that have been around since 1984.

There has recently been some confusion regarding whether the vehicle needs to be constructed on a truck chassis to qualify for the exemption. According to this analysis from CCH, that distinction regarding the chassis may have been removed by IRS.

The IRS announced the applicable 2008 luxury car depreciation caps in Rev. Proc. 2008-22, I.R.B. 2008-12, 658. For the first time since the release of Rev. Proc. 2003-75, the language indicating that an SUV should be considered to be a truck if it was built on a truck chassis was omitted.

In an informal response to a CCH inquiry, the IRS indicated that the language in Rev. Proc. 2003-75 (and the subsequent annual depreciation cap update) was only intended to represent a safe harbor that taxpayers could use to determine whether an SUV qualifies for the higher depreciation caps that apply to trucks and vans with a GVWR of 6000 pounds or less. The IRS either has or will eliminate language in its publications and form instructions that equate an SUV to a truck if it is built on a truck chassis.

Since I have noticed that CCH news stories have a tendency to disappear from their website after a few weeks, I made a PDF copy of this one that you can download.



Posted in Vehicles | Comments Off

2009 IRS Mileage Rates

Posted by taxguru on November 25, 2008

From the IRS website:

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2009, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 55 cents per mile for business miles driven
  • 24 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

As described in Revenue Procedure 2008–72, the depreciation portion of the standard rate is 21 cents per mile for 2008 and 2009.  This is useful info for calculating depreciation recapture on vehicles that are sold after using the standard rate. 

Posted in Vehicles | Comments Off

Tips on Donating Your Car

Posted by taxguru on September 13, 2008

Here is a short video with Tom Herman of the WSJ discussing the rules for claiming a deduction for a donated vehicle.

After all of these years reading Tom Herman’s columns in the WSJ, this is the first time I have seen what he actually looks like.

Over the years, I have discussed this topic several times and the biggest misconception seems to be with the term Fair Market Value. Even Mr. Herman glosses over this point in this video.

Most people assume that the Kelley Blue Book value is gospel as establishing a vehicle’s value. The truth is that the only true determination of an item’s worth is what it will actually fetch on the open market, as per this definition from all over the web.

The price that an interested but not desperate buyer would be willing to pay and an interested but not desperate seller would be willing to accept on the open market assuming a reasonable period of time for an agreement to arise.

That is why the relatively recent IRS rule requiring people to use the charity’s actual sales price of the vehicle for the charitable deduction makes a lot of sense. That isn’t something you ever see me say very often; IRS doing something that makes sense.

I don’t follow used car prices or track what Kelley Blue Book has been doing in response to the higher fuel prices. However, if they haven’t dropped values of gas hogs to reflect their decreases in the real world, that is no excuse to consider the Blue Book prices as Fair Market Value.

Update:

A day after posting this, I sent the following to a client:

We received your 2007 personal tax organizer and other docs. I’ve
looked them over and the only item that is obviously incomplete has to do with the Jeep you donated to St. Vincent de Paul (SVP).

I see that you wrote $2,000 in the organizer as the value, but that won’t be enough documentation. As the letter from SVP says, you need to have a 1098-C from them showing how much they actually sold the vehicle for if you are going to claim a value of more than $500. I didn’t see a 1098-C among the documents that you sent in. Please contact SVP to obtain a new copy of that form or else we will have to stick with a deduction of just $500.

To help you understand more about this issue, I have attached a copy of the page from The TaxBook, my main tax reference book with the section on vehicle donations circled in red. Please look it over and see how your situation matches up with the examples shown.

Also, just by coincidence, I recently posted an entry on my blog, with a video from the WSJ, on exactly this subject.

Thanks for you help with this. Let me know if you would like to set up a phone appointment to discuss the details of this in more depth.

Kerry

The client wrote back:

I don’t have any such documentation. In that case, I’ll go ahead and claim $500.

Thanks,

TaxCoach Software: Are you giving your clients what they really want?

Posted in Charity, Vehicles, video | Comments Off

IRS Increases Mileage Rates

Posted by taxguru on June 23, 2008

At last, IRS has realized that the 50.5 cents per mile standard rate for business miles is woefully out of kilter with the current fuel prices, so they just announced that as of July 1, 2008, the rate will jump by eight cents to 58.5 cents per business mile.

The standard deduction for medical and moving costs will also increase as of July 1, to a whopping 27.0 cents per mile.

And, as always, the rate for using a vehicle for charitable purposes will remain at the statutory limit of 14.0 cents per mile because our imperial rulers locked that rate into the law.

This shows once again why it is important to keep track of actual expenses rather than rely on the out-dated standard rates when calculating vehicle deductions. 

 

Posted in Vehicles | Comments Off

Documenting vehicle weight…

Posted by taxguru on April 23, 2008

Q:

Subject: Section 179 & Toyota Highlanda Hybrid, GVWR 6150 lbs

Tax Guru,

I’ve come across an interesting situation. The 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid has a sticker/plate inside the drivers side door that states the GVWR as 6150 lbs. However, all the marketing brochures and even Toyota’s web site lists the GVWR as 6000lbs. We’re thinking of buying this SUV for our small business and want to understand if it qualifies under Section 179.
The plate on the SUV would seem to indicate it does but all other posted information seems to indicate it doesn’t.

Any advice?

Thanks.

A:

You really need to be discussing this with your own personal professional tax advisor. However, I am willing to explain how I would address this if it were with one of my clients.

I am guessing that the discrepancy in the listed weights may have something to do with some optional equipment that was installed on the vehicle with that ID plate. The promotional literature from Toyota most likely deals with the standard vehicle before the addition of any optional equipment.

I’ve mentioned on several occasions how some auto dealers actually offer “tax deductibility” add-on packages of options that take an under 6,000 vehicle into the over 6,000 pound qualifying area. This is why feeling limited to the weights shown on promotional literature is not appropriate.

If, as it seems, you are nervous about IRS possibly disallowing your larger Section 179 deduction for a vehicle over 6,000 pounds, I would go the extra mile in documenting the legitimacy up front. As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, one of the main reasons I am opposed to electronic tax returns is the inability to include additional documentation of potentially questionable items. This is a perfect example.

In your case here, I would take a photograph of the ID plate indicating the GVW of 6,150 pounds and attach it to the tax return where you are claiming that Section 179 deduction. I can’t imagine any IRS auditor wanting to quibble over that being wrong. If anything, you may be questioned about your business usage of the SUV; but I can’t see the weight being an issue of contention if you have that photo attached.

Again, you should run this by your own professional tax advisor.

Good luck.

Kerry Kerstetter

TaxCoach Software: Are you giving your clients what they really want?

Posted in Vehicles | Comments Off

Business Mileage

Posted by taxguru on March 22, 2008

Q:


Kerry,

 

What percentage of business miles vs the total can I deduct per car?

 

A:

There is no such thing as a standard business use percentage.  It depends on how many business miles were driven for each individual vehicle.

As I said before, you need to calculate the business miles in such a way that you would feel comfortable defending that if IRS were to ever question it.

A very commonly used method for reconstructing annual mileage is to estimate the business miles in a standard day or week and extrapolate that for the entire year based on the number of days or weeks you worked that year.  This methodology is accepted by most IRS auditors.

I hate to be such a pain with this; but I can’t just pull numbers and percentages out of the air for you. That is your responsibility.

Kerry

 

Go Daddy Domain Names

 

Posted in Vehicles | Comments Off

Driving through the tax maze unescorted…

Posted by taxguru on December 19, 2007

Q:

Subject: Question submission

 

Hi Kerry,

 

I asked a while ago and am still trying to understand the implications.  I wonder if you could help out.

 

In August, 2004 I purchase a 2004 Chevy Suburban for business use and depreciated the entire ~$48,000 cost under sec. 179 that year.

 

It’s now 3.5 years later and I’d like to know the tax ramifications of trading in the 2004 Suburban for a 2008 Suburban (cost ~$54,000).

 

I understand that right now the cost basis of the 2004 chevy is $0.

 

Given that taxes and depreciation are not my strong suit, can you explain what the tax consequences are for such a transaction?

 

Specifically, how much of the new vehicle will be available to depreciate, and can it be depreciated all in a single year (2008)? 

 

With that information, I can understand the real (net) cost (that is, for example, if the trade-in value of the 2004 chevy is $30,000, leaving me paying $24,000 in cash for the new 2008, but if I can depreciate all of that, then my post-tax dollars cost will be somewhere in the $14,000 range (40% taxes) — do I understand this correctly)?

 

Thank you,

A:

I have already discussed this exact thing in several previous posts; so I am not going to give as detailed an answer as I have already done.

Basically, the additional price you pay for the new vehicle after the trade-in credit is what will be eligible for depreciation and Section 179 expensing.  In your example, that would be the $24,000.

As always, the amount of Section 179 you will be able to claim will be based on the business mileage percentage for the year, your net earned income, and the total amount of new qualifying property you acquire during the year.

In regard to the actual after tax cost of the new vehicle, that will depend on your marginal tax bracket, as well as whether your income is subject to the 15.3% SE tax.  You didn’t say where you will be deducting the vehicle costs, such as on Schedule A for W-2 employee expenses or on Schedule C for a sole proprietorship.  The actual tax savings will be dramatically different for each schedule. 

If you are deducting your vehicle costs on Schedule A, you will also have to deal with the Insane AMT, which severely penalizes people with high Schedule A deductions.  A reduction in your regular income tax could be more than offset by the AMT.

If a certain level of tax savings is a critical component in your decision to go through with the Suburban trade, the only smart approach would be to have your personal professional tax advisor run your pro forma numbers for whichever year you are considering the trade under both assumptions; with the new Suburban and keeping the old one.

If, as I suspect, you don’t have a personal professional tax advisor, trying to answer this critical question by asking strangers on the internet for help is a dangerous way to handle this. 

Good luck.  I hope this helps.

Kerry Kerstetter

 

TaxCoach Software: Are you giving your clients what they really want?

  

Posted in Vehicles | Comments Off

 
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