What Is Form 4562: Depreciation and Amortization?

If you purchased for business or investment purposes any equipment or machinery, bought a building or other property, or used a vehicle for business this year, you need to complete Form 4562, Depreciation and Amortization. This two-page form has six parts, but if you take it step-by-step, you’ll be able to complete the sections that your situation requires. 

If you don’t own a business, breathe a sigh of relief. You won’t ever have to fill in depreciation and amortization tax forms. If, however, a vintage clothing shop owner purchases new racks and displays for her store or a baker acquires a second-hand (new to him) delivery truck or perhaps a new iPad-based checkout system for his market stall, the IRS won’t allow them to automatically deduct the full cost of purchases like these in the first year. That’s where Form 4562 comes in.

If you didn’t acquire any assets during the year and are merely depreciating the cost of assets purchased in prior years, you may not need to complete this form (it depends on your business’ entity type and other factors). Not sure about this, or whether you’re up to the task of handling this form? Review the IRS instructions to Form 4562 or consult a tax professional.

Key Takeaways

• Business owners must file Form 4562 if they are claiming depreciation for property that was placed into service during the current tax year or a previous tax year (section 179 deductions). The form is also used to claim depreciation on vehicles and other "listed" property.

• In general, businesses can depreciate tangible property, such as machinery, buildings, vehicles and equipment, as well as intangible property like patents, copyrights, and software.

• For tax years beginning in 2020, the maximum section 179 expense deduction is $1,040,000, or $1,075,000 for qualified enterprise zone property. That cap is reduced, however, if the cost of section 179 property exceeds $2,590,000.

How to Complete Form 4562: Depreciation and Amortization

Depreciation and amortization are write-offs for the cost of acquiring various assets or incurring certain expenses used in business or for investment purposes (such as a landlord with a rental building). Sounds simple enough, but there are many conditions and requirements, special elections, special terminology (not all of which can be defined here), and other rules that complicate the topic. The following is a step-by-step approach to completing the form under the most common circumstances.

Form 4562 Part I

This part of the form is used to elect to expense tangible property, off-the-shelf software, and certain types of real estate (e.g., a greenhouse) placed in service throughout the calendar year (called the Section 179 deduction). For tax years 2020 and after, the maximum section 179 expense deduction is $1,040,000 ($1,045,000 for qualified enterprise zone property). This limit is reduced by the amount by which the cost of section 179 property placed in service during the tax year exceeds $2,590,000.

Regardless of the deduction amount, you must apply the limitation that restricts the Section 179 deduction to the extent of your business profits (called “taxable income” without regard to certain deductions) for the year. The limitation–your net earnings from self-employment for sole proprietors or net profit for other business entities–is entered on line 11. If you had any Section 179 deduction disallowed last year because of this business income limitation, the carryover is entered on line 10; if any part of this year’s deduction cannot be used because of the limitation (and is carried over to the next tax year), enter it on line 13.

Note: You don’t have to use the Section 179 deduction; you can instead depreciate the property over the number of years applicable to the type of property involved (an option that makes sense if you think future depreciation will save you more taxes). You can choose to use the Section 179 deduction for a part of the cost of the property by entering the “elected cost” on line 6(c).

Form 4562 Page 1.

Form 4562 is available on the IRS website.

Form 4562 Part II 

This part of the form is used for a special depreciation allowance (also called “bonus depreciation”), which is a 50% allowance claimed in the year that eligible property is placed in service. Certain property acquired after Sept. 27, 2017, and used before January 1, 2021, is eligible for a 100% deduction, though you don't have to take it.

Do not complete this part for:

  • Property that is not “eligible property.” only new property, and not pre-owned property, are eligible.
  • “Listed property,” which is defined later (in Part V).

Bonus depreciation applies automatically to a qualified property unless you decide not to take it. The election out of bonus depreciation is made by attaching a statement to the return indicating property for which you do not want to apply this special depreciation. Note: This election cannot be revoked without IRS consent, so be sure you want to opt out.

Bonus depreciation can be combined with the Section 179 deduction. As with the order of Form 4562, the Section 179 deduction is taken first, then bonus depreciation. If there is still any cost that has not been fully deducted, regular depreciation (in Part III) can also be claimed.

Form 4562 Part III

This section is for basic depreciation (other than depreciation for listed property, which is entered in Part V) under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) that was created in 1986 and continues to apply today. A single entry on line 17 is used to report deductions for assets placed in service during a previous tax year (refer to your prior tax returns or any worksheets you may have retained to determine the amount to enter here).

Details about assets placed in service during the current tax year are entered on Section B (lines 19a through 19i). For example, say your design firm bought and started using a $3,000 3-D printer so you could make your own prototypes of the housewares you were designing (and you did not expense the cost in Part I or use bonus depreciation in Part II). The tax law says the printer is five-year property.

Enter:

  • The date (month and year) it was placed in service on line 19b, column (b) 
  • The cost or another basis on which depreciation is figured in column (c) 
  • The recovery period is different from the basic recovery period (a time frame set by law for each type of property) in column (d) 
  • The appropriate convention (a tax rule that impacts the depreciation computation) in column (e)
  • The depreciation method (e.g., an even deduction over the recovery period, called the straight-line method, or one that skews write-offs to early years, called accelerated depreciation method) in column (f)
  • The amount of the depreciation deduction in column (g)

Residential rental property and nonresidential real property (e.g., office building, factory) automatically has a fixed recovery period, uses the mid-month convention (that assumes the property was placed into service in the middle of a month), and the method of straight-line.

Businesses should list assets that were placed into service during the current tax year (excluding automobiles or other listed property) and subject to the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS) in Section C (lines 20a through 20d) instead of Section B. Certain assets, including tangible property used mostly outside the United States and tax-exempt use property must be expensed using ADS. A complete list is included in the IRS Instructions for Form 4562.

Business owners should file a separate Form 4562 for each business or activity that requires the form. Should you need more space than that which is provided, you may attach additional sheets of paper.

Form 4562 Part IV

This part of the form is a summary from Parts I, II, and III, as well as listed property in Part V. Line 22 is the key entry; it is the amount of depreciation that is deductible. The amount on line 22 is reported on the appropriate line of your tax return.

Businesses that are subject to the uniform capitalization rules of section 263A should enter the increase on line 23.

Form 4562 Part V

This section is for claiming write-offs for listed property: cars weighing 6,000 pounds or less, pickup trucks, computers, and peripheral equipment, video recording equipment, and other property specifically called “listed property.”

Section A is for the depreciation allowance for listed property, including the Section 179 deduction and bonus depreciation. You need to enter a lot of information about each item of property in this section:

  • Type of property in column (a) 
  • Date it was placed in service in column (b) 
  • The portion of the business and/or investment usage in column (c)
  • The cost or another basis in column (d) 
  • The basis for depreciation [which reflects the amount in column (d) multiplied by the percentage in column (c)] in column (e) 
  • The recovery period in column (f) 
  • The method or convention for depreciation in column (g) 
  • The depreciation deduction in column (h)
  • Any election Section 179 deduction in column (i)
  • Line 24a in Section A asks two key yes-no questions: (1) Do you have evidence to support the business and/or investment use of the listed property and (2) is this evidence written? This means if you use your personal car for business, you need to be able to answer "yes" to both questions (e.g., you’ve kept a log on paper, on a computer, or via an app).

For property that is subject to a special depreciation allowance, the depreciation deduction and elected section 179 costs must be entered on line 25. Otherwise, property used more than 50% for a qualified business use is recorded on line 26, and that which is used less than 50% for business is entered on line 27.

Section B is used to provide information about vehicles used by sole proprietors, partners or other “more than 5% owners”, or people related to these business owners. There’s space for up to six vehicles; use an attachment for reporting any additional vehicles (which is generated automatically for electronic returns).

The form will ask how many business and commuting miles each vehicle was driven during the year, whether the vehicle was available for personal use during "off-duty" hours and whether it was used primarily by a 5% owner or related person.

Section C is used by an employer to report certain information on employee use of company vehicles. There are five yes-no questions to answer here. If you don’t have any employees, skip this section.

Form 4562 Part VI

This part is for any amortization you claim. With amortization, costs are deducted evenly over a set number of years fixed by law or over the expected life of the property. Amortizable costs include start-up costs that were not fully deductible in the first year of business and costs for certain intangibles (such as goodwill, patents, and copyrights). Amortization costs that begin during the current tax year are entered on line 42 (along with a description of the costs and other information); amortization for costs that began in a prior year is entered on line 43.