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Depreciation Recapture


Depreciation recapture is a tax provision that allows the IRS to collect taxes on any profitable sale of an asset that the taxpayer had previously used to offset his or her taxable income. Essentially, it is the gain realized on the sale of a depreciable capital asset that must be reported as income. It prevents people from claiming a capital loss for the depreciated portion of the property when they sell it at a profit.


The phonetics of “Depreciation Recapture” is: Depreciation: /dɪˌpriːʃiˈeɪʃən/ Recapture: /ˌriːˈkæptʃər/

Key Takeaways

<ol><li>Depreciation Recapture refers to the process by which the IRS collects taxes on the gain from the sale of an asset that had previously provided a tax deduction through depreciation. Essentially, it is the re-addition of the depreciation expense to the asset’s selling price for the purpose of tax calculation.</li><li>The process is conducted to maintain fairness in the tax system. This means that if a business has claimed a depreciation expense for an asset in the past to reduce the tax liability, the depreciation should be recaptured if the asset is sold at a gain to ensure the business pays the proper amount of tax.</li><li>The recaptured depreciation gets taxed as ordinary income, not capital gain. It is subject to a Depreciation Recapture tax, capped at 25% in the U.S. The tax rate applied depends on the asset’s useful life and the individual’s marginal tax rate./li></ol>


Depreciation recapture is a significant concept in business and finance, as it is firmly rooted in taxation regulations. It is the process by which the IRS collects taxes on the gain from the sale of an asset, which had previously provided a tax benefit through depreciation. This is a critical aspect to consider during the sale of an asset because it can directly impact the profit or net proceeds realized from the sale. Thus, understanding depreciation recapture can help businesses and individuals strategize their asset management and financial planning while effectively minimizing tax liabilities.


The purpose of depreciation recapture is to collect income tax on any gain from the sale of an asset that has previously been subject to tax depreciation. When an asset such as real estate or equipment is used for business purposes, its value generally decreases over time. This decrease in value, referred to as depreciation, is accounted for in the business’s tax filings and results in lower annual tax expenses for the company. However, if the asset is later sold for a price that is higher than its depreciated value, this results in a gain which has not been taxed previously. Depreciation recapture ensures this gain is not overlooked and is, in fact, subject to taxation.Moreover, depreciation recapture is used as an instrument to maintain tax fairness and efficiency. Without it, businesses could potentially exploit tax loopholes by continuously claiming depreciation deductions and then selling assets at a profit, thus avoiding to pay the adequate amount of taxes. Depreciation recapture mitigates such attempts by capturing the portion of the asset’s sale proceeds that can be attributed to depreciation deductions, and treating these as ordinary income, which is usually taxed at a higher rate than capital gains. Thus, it plays an integral part in ensuring equitable tax situations and encouraging proper financial behavior within the realms of business and finance.


1. Real Estate Investments: A real estate investor buys a rental property for $500,000. Over ten years, they take $100,000 worth of depreciation deductions on their tax returns. When he sells the property for $600,000, the IRS requires him to pay depreciation recapture tax on the $100,000 he previously deducted, because the sale price of the property was more than its depreciated cost basis.2. Equipment Purchase: A business purchases a piece of equipment for $50,000 and uses it over the years, claiming a total of $20,000 in depreciation deductions. They later sell the equipment for $35,000. Depreciation recapture would apply to the $20,000 as it is considered as income and must be reported when filing the business tax return.3. Vehicle Depreciation: A company buys a delivery truck for $30,000 and, over the course of several years, claims $10,000 in depreciation. They then sell the truck for $25,000. In this case, the $10,000 would be subject to depreciation recapture since it’s recouped in the sale.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Depreciation Recapture?

Depreciation recapture is a tax provision that allows the IRS to collect taxes on the gain from the sale of an asset that has previously been taken as a depreciation expense.

How is Depreciation Recapture calculated?

The Depreciation recapture is calculated by subtracting the adjusted basis or book value of an asset from the sale price. The result is the amount that is subject to be taxed.

Is Depreciation Recapture always applied when an asset is sold?

Yes, Depreciation Recapture applies whenever a business sells an asset for a profit that it has previously claimed depreciation on.

At what rate is Depreciation Recapture taxed?

The Depreciation Recapture is taxed as ordinary income, not capital gains. The rate depends on the taxpayer’s tax bracket, but it’s generally capped at 25% for real property.

Can Depreciation Recapture be avoided?

In certain cases, it is possible to avoid depreciation recapture by employing a 1031 exchange or by holding onto the asset until death. It is recommended to seek advice from a tax professional in this regard.

What assets are subject to Depreciation Recapture?

Most types of tangible assets are subject to Depreciation Recapture, including buildings, machinery, vehicles, furniture, and equipment.

How does Depreciation Recapture affect my business tax liability?

Depreciation Recapture can increase your tax liability because the income from the sale of the asset is taxed as ordinary income rather than capital gain.

What is the purpose of Depreciation Recapture?

The purpose of Depreciation Recapture is to prevent businesses from receiving a double tax benefit – once by taking depreciation expenses and again by selling the asset for profit.

Do individuals need to worry about Depreciation Recapture or is it only for businesses?

Both individuals and businesses may need to worry about Depreciation Recapture if they sell an asset at a gain that they’ve claimed depreciation on.

How do I report Depreciation Recapture on my tax return?

Depreciation Recapture is generally reported on IRS Form 4797, Sales of Business Property. It’s advised to consult with a tax professional to ensure it’s done correctly.

Related Finance Terms

  • Capital Gains Tax: This refers to the tax levied on the profit derived from the sale of an asset which has increased in value.
  • Section 1250 Property: This term specifically refers to real property, such as a building or its structural components, that are subject to depreciation recapture.
  • Like-Kind Exchange: Also known as 1031 exchange. This is a mechanism whereby a taxpayer can defer payment of capital gains tax when selling an investment property and reinvesting the proceeds from the sale within certain time limits in a property or properties of like kind and equal or greater value.
  • Depreciable Property: These are assets that lose value over time and hence can be written off against income on a tax return, thus reducing the taxable income.
  • Amortization: This is the process of gradually reducing a debt through installment payments of principal and interest over a set period, similar to depreciation, but is often used in the context of intangible assets.

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