Editor's note: For the most updated information regarding 2013 depreciation and Section 179 tax deductions, click here.

As 2012 winds down, it’s time to start figuring out what tax breaks you can take advantage of on the fleet vehicles you put into service this year.

 When you purchase or lease vehicles for your business that you place in service in the 2012 calendar year, you could earn a tax deduction of up to $139,000 under Internal Revenue code Section 179.

 You may also be able to take an additional first year special depreciation allowance on certain vehicle purchases as well.

 As you should already know, Section 179 deductions are available for most new and used capital equipment. For the 2012 tax year, the deduction limit under Internal Revenue code Section 179 is $139,000, but to get the full benefit you would place in service no more than $560,000 of “Section 179 property” during the year. (If you spend more than $560,000 there is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the amount you may take in the deduction.)

 The Full Deduction

The type of vehicle determines the amount of deduction you can take. True work vehicles such as medium-duty and vocational trucks get the full $139,000 deduction in aggregate. Other vehicles that fit this standard include heavy-duty vehicles (not SUVs) with cargo areas at least six feet in interior length (such as full-sized pickup beds), vehicles that can seat nine or more passengers and vehicles with a fully-enclosed driver’s compartment and no seating at all – in other words, passenger and cargo vans.

 Vehicles on this list include passenger and cargo van models such as Ford Econoline, Chevy Express, GMC Savana and Mercedes Sprinter, as well as pickups such as Chevy Silverado, Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 and their heavier brothers. Watch out, because some crew cab pickups with short boxes may not qualify.

Smaller Deductions

Other vehicles get a $25,000 per-vehicle deduction, such as SUVs with more than 6,000 lbs. gross vehicle weight (GVW). Those include the likes of the Chevy Tahoe, Ford Expedition and Mercedes GL-Class SUV.

 Smaller deductions exist for cars, trucks and vans that don’t meet those guidelines but are used more than 50% for business. For those vehicles placed in service in 2012, the Section 179 deduction is limited to $11,060 for cars and $11,160 for trucks and vans.

 Certain vehicles may fall into gray areas in terms of which categories they belong, so consult your tax professional for details.

Depreciation Bonus

But don’t forget the special depreciation bonus. The bonus depreciation allowance was 100% for a portion of 2010 and all of 2011, and was reduced to 50% for 2012.

Note that bonus depreciation can be taken on new equipment only, and that goes away entirely when 2012 ends.

Will the end of bonus depreciation hurt the economic recovery? Ultimately, it would be hard to establish a direct cause and effect. But it is sure to dampen investment in capital equipment. Let’s see what happens in regards to fleet sales in the last three months of this year and the first few months of 2013. I predict a spike on year-over-year comparisons and then a drop moving into 2013.

 So if you’re going to buy fleet in the next few months, don’t wait until after Dec. 31!




Chris Brown
Chris Brown

Digital Editor of Automotive Fleet, Fleet Forward, Auto Rental News

As editor of Automotive Fleet (digital), Auto Rental News, Fleet Forward, and Business Fleet, Chris Brown covers all aspects of fleets, transportation, and mobility.

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As editor of Automotive Fleet (digital), Auto Rental News, Fleet Forward, and Business Fleet, Chris Brown covers all aspects of fleets, transportation, and mobility.

View Bio