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Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS)


The Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) is the current tax depreciation system in the United States. Introduced in 1986, it allows businesses to recover certain capital costs over a fixed period of time through annual deductions. The system classifies assets into different classes which dictate the depreciation method and recovery period for these assets.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS)” is:Muh-dahy-fahyd Aks-uh-leh-ray-tid Kost Rih-kuhv-uh-ree Sis-tuhm (M-A-C-R-S)

Key Takeaways

  1. Accelerated Depreciation: The Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) is the primary method of depreciation for federal income tax purposes. It allows businesses to deduct a higher amount of the asset cost earlier in the asset’s lifespan, leading to greater tax benefits.
  2. Asset Classification: Under MACRS, assets are categorized into different property classes, determined by the IRS, which dictates the recovery period (useful life) of an asset. These classes range from 3 to 50 years and help in determining the depreciation method.
  3. Two Systems Involved: MACRS includes two systems: General Depreciation System (GDS) and the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS). GDS is used most frequently and offers the highest depreciation rate. On the other hand, ADS offers a longer recovery period but might be mandatory in certain situations.


The Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) is a critical business and finance term due to its prominent role in managing a company’s tax obligations. It’s a depreciation system employed by businesses in the United States that allows firms to recover part of the capitalized cost of an asset for tax purposes through annual deductions. MACRS is important because it accelerates the rate at which businesses can write off assets compared to previous depreciation methods, hence offering substantial tax benefits. Greater depreciation in early years of asset life can significantly reduce taxable income and thereby lower the company’s short-term tax liability, which in turn can improve cash flow and profitability while promoting business investment and growth.


The Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) essentially plays a critical role in the depreciation of assets for tax purposes in the United States. The purpose of the MACRS is to allow businesses to recover certain capital costs over time. It provides a preset depreciation schedule that varies depending on the type of asset. These depreciating assets could be machinery, vehicles, furniture, equipment or real estate. This method accelerates the rate at which businesses can claim tax deductions, which can significantly impact a company’s financial performance and taxable income.One significant aspect of the MACRS is that it allows for greater deductions in the early years of an asset’s life, utilizing a system of accelerated depreciation. This comes with the benefit of reducing taxable income earlier, which aids in improving the current cash flow for businesses. By reducing taxes in the earlier years of an asset’s life, the MACRS can have a significant impact on a company’s financial and business strategies. Thus, understanding and using the MACRS for depreciation provides an important aspect in managing assets, tax planning and maintaining the financial health of a company.


1. Commercial Real Estate: A real estate company purchases a commercial building for $1 million. With MACRS, they can recover the cost by depreciating it over a recovery period of 39 years. This depreciation would allow the real estate company to reduce its taxable income over the depreciation period, potentially resulting in significant tax savings.2. Manufacturing Industry: A manufacturing company buys a new piece of machinery for $2 million that is expected to have a useful life of 7 years. Under the MACRS, the company can depreciatively recover the costs throughout this 7 year period. This specific strategy ultimately reduces the amount of taxable income, allowing the company to save on taxes.3. Transportation Sector: A transport company buys a fleet of delivery vehicles worth $500,000 expected to be effective for 5 years before they have to be replaced. Using the MACRS, the cost of these vehicles can be depreciated over the 5 years, deducting it from the company’s taxable profits and thus saving substantial money on taxes. This depreciation reflects the wear and tear the vehicles experience over time, as well as their lower overall value, allowing for more realistic reporting of assets and taxation.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS)?

MACRS is a method of depreciation used primarily in the United States for purposes of federal income tax. It allows businesses to recover certain property costs over a specified period via annual deductions.

How does MACRS differ from standard depreciation methods?

Unlike standard linear depreciation methods where the asset losses value consistently over time, MACRS allows for greater deductions in the earlier years of an asset’s life and less in the later years, following a predetermined schedule.

Where is MACRS primarily used?

MACRS is a method used primarily in the United States for federal income tax purposes. The system is stipulated within the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.

Can MACRS be used for all types of property?

MACRS depreciation can be used for most tangible property but there are restrictions. Certain property categories, including property with a class life of less than 3 years and certain types of intangible property, are not eligible.

How is the depreciation period determined under MACRS?

The depreciation period under MACRS is determined by the assigned class life of a property as defined by the IRS. It can range anywhere from 3 to 50 years.

What are the two depreciation systems under MACRS?

The two systems under MACRS are the General Depreciation System (GDS) and the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS). GDS is most commonly used while ADS is mainly used for tangible property used predominantly outside the U.S. and for tax-exempt use property.

Can a business choose not to use MACRS for its property?

Yes, businesses can elect out of MACRS, however, they would then have to use the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS), which generally results in slower deductions. The election must be made in a timely manner, usually by the due date of the return (including extensions) for the tax year in which the property is placed in service.

What are the benefits of using MACRS?

Businesses often prefer MACRS because it provides larger depreciation deductions earlier on. This can result in substantial present value tax savings due to the time value of money.

Related Finance Terms

  • Depreciable Property
  • Recovery Periods
  • MACRS Depreciation Methods
  • Property Classes under MACRS
  • Section 179 Deduction

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