Tax Guru – Ker$tetter Letter

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Archive for August 31st, 2007

Vehicle Depreciation Recapture + Leasing

Posted by taxguru on August 31, 2007


Subject: Thanks and a Question


Just discovered your website today.  Very nice.  Thanks for the hours you must devote to keeping this up to date.

I found your site by researching a question on recapture rules for SUVs used in a business.  You’ve probably already thoroughly addressed this, but I’m afraid I couldn’t find the answer.  So, here’s the situation:

Client placed into service a large SUV (greater than 6,000 lbs gross vehicle weight) on 12/1/03.  He took advantage of the generous Section 179 election available back then, so has no basis left in the vehicle.

Business use has never dropped below 50%.  He is considering selling the vehicle, which has a current value of around $25,000.  Questions:

1.      What is the earliest date he could sell the vehicle without being exposed to recapture?  Is it 5 years from the in-service date (12/1/08)?

2.      Even if client waits long enough to avoid any recapture, is he still subject to tax on the sale?  If yes, is it capital gains or ordinary income?

3.      Client would prefer to lease his next business vehicle rather than trade this one in on another purchased vehicle. Is there a better way to get the next business vehicle? 


Thanks so much for your time.


I have discussed the recapture rules on several occasions, which you can probably find by searching my blog. However, a quick review may be handy here.

For some reason, you seem to have the mistaken impression that it is possible to wait out the recapture requirements.  That is the case for the Section 179 recapture requirement while still owning the vehicle.  However, that is not possible for a sale.

It is always important to keep tabs on the adjusted cost basis (aka book value) of business assets so that you can know what any potential gain or loss would be triggered by its sale.

Basically, the book value is the original cost of the asset less the depreciation (including Sec. 179) claimed up to the point of sale.  In your case, if you expensed the entire cost of the SUV, its book value is zero, which means the full amount of any sales price will be taxable at the 25% Federal depreciation tax rate, plus state tax if you are in a taxable state.  This would be the case if the sale took place now or 50 years from now.

Before a sale, there is a potential taxable partial recapture of the Section 179 if the asset’s business usage slips below 50% in the first five years after you place it into service while still owning it.

If you are disposing of the SUV in order to acquire a newer model, there will be no taxable recapture if you trade in your existing one on the purchase of a new one costing at least as much as the old one is worth and you receive no cash or net relief of debt.

Replacing the SUV with one on an operating lease won’t qualify for any tax break.  A disguised purchase lease may qualify.

I have never been a fan of leasing from a financial perspective and have longed warned about how much of a rip-off it is.  With very few exceptions, I have found that operating leases of vehicles are by far the most expensive way to finance their acquisition; often incurring an implicit interest rate of well over 30% APR.  This is even before the exorbitant charges assessed by leasing companies for such things as excess mileage and excessive wear and tear. 

Unlike conventional vehicle loans, which are required to make full disclosure of the interest rates, leasing companies are allowed to camouflage their implicit rates and even lie about  what it is.  I have actually heard employees of leasing companies deny that there is any interest charge built into their monthly lease payments.  However, since any financially competent analyst can very easily compute exactly what those charges are, I have amazed clients with the truth about what they are being charged.  This is useful in saving them a lot of money when they ask for my advice before signing up for a lease; but is disheartening news when they tell mine about the lease after they have committed to it and are faced with the reality of how much they are being screwed over.  A lease with a 30% built-in interest rate simply doesn’t seem like much of a bargain compared to a purchase loan of zero to five percent.

These are all extremely basic tax and financial principles that any competent tax person should have no problem explaining to you and your clients; so before disposing of the old SUV or acquiring a new one, a tax pro should be consulted.

Good luck.  I hope this helps.

Kerry Kerstetter




Posted in Vehicles | Comments Off on Vehicle Depreciation Recapture + Leasing

Reporting S Corp Income On 1040

Posted by taxguru on August 31, 2007


Subject: general question

Hi Kerry,

I have a general question pertaining to S-corps and taxes. I came across your website in my search for answers. I’m hopeful you may assist.

I have a S-Corp and the IRS recently requested I send a 1040 form for a previous year.

Must I complete the 1040 form using all of my information from the S-Corp filing – (redundancy) or may I use just my K-1 schedules and fill in the 1040.

The IRS has my S-corp submissions

Thanks Kerry for your thoughts


I don’t mean to pick on you here, but you appear to be a perfect example of getting in over your head by setting up an S corp without knowing how they function tax-wise, as well as trying to handle your taxes without the assistance of a professional tax advisor.

If your S corp’s 1120S was prepared properly, its K-1 should have all of the information that needs to be entered onto the various schedules of your 1040.  There is no need to enter the individual income and expenses items that are shown on the 1120S.

Before you prepare your 1040 for 2004, you should have a professional tax advisor review the 1120S to make sure that doesn’t need to be amended.  S/he should then be used to prepare your 1040 for that year as well.

Good luck.

Kerry Kerstetter




Posted in corp | Comments Off on Reporting S Corp Income On 1040

Annuities Cashed In

Posted by taxguru on August 31, 2007


Subject: Annuity question

I recently had to cash in/surrender an annuity with a insurance company.  Naturally, I had to pay a surrender charge.  Is all or part of this charge a deduction using schedule D of capital gains/loss form?  Thanks.,



I’m assuming this annuity was in your personal name and not in an IRA or other kind of retirement account.

Just like a commission and other selling costs, the surrender charge would be added to the annuity’s cost basis figure on your Schedule D; thus reducing the net taxable gain.

You really should be asking your personal professional tax advisor questions like this.  This is especially important for planning the best use of capital gains and losses for the year.

Good luck.

Kerry Kerstetter




Posted in CapGains | Comments Off on Annuities Cashed In

2007 California Tax Rate Schedules

Posted by taxguru on August 31, 2007

Unlike with the annual inflation adjustment for the Federal individual income tax brackets, which are released well before the next year, the California Franchise Tax Board doesn’t release its new brackets until well into the subject year. They have just now released the 2007 rate schedules

Based on previous years, the 2008 Federal tax schedules should be out in about three weeks and will be posted on my main website shortly thereafter.


Posted in StateTaxes | Comments Off on 2007 California Tax Rate Schedules

Posted by taxguru on August 31, 2007

The FairTax – distortions and lies – Another response to Bruce Bartlett’s hatchet job on the FairTax proposals.


Posted in FairTax | Comments Off on