Depreciation is an annual income tax deduction that allows you to recover the cost or other basis of certain property over the time you use the property. It is the method of allocating the cost of an asset for the wear and tear, deterioration, or obsolescence of the property, over its useful life.
In certain instances, you may be able to claim section 179, which will allow you to write off the cost of the asset in the year it was purchased. Also, vehicles may qualify for the special allowance. Check with your accountant for more information about this.
Asset value is recorded in asset accounts by the type of asset (ie auto or furniture etc). Depreciation is recorded using a contra asset account, and an expense account. The contra asset account, typically called an Accumulated Depreciation account, is an account showing the reduction of an asset. The asset account together with the Accumulated Depreciation account shows the assets on your balance sheet at its original in-service cost, less accumulated depreciation; so it nets out to your book value (cost less depreciation). The depreciation is expensed to an expense account called Depreciation Expense.
There are several methods of recording depreciation and the useful life will vary on the type of asset. Most accountants will use a fixed asset tracking program or their own in-house spreadsheet to track your assets and other details, such as the year the asset was placed in service, cost, useful life and depreciation method. Accountants will often record your annual depreciation expense after you've given them your year-end reports or file from AccountEdge, and before they finalize your tax returns.
Recording depreciation at the end of the year after-the-fact, means the monthly financial statements you use throughout the year to manage your business during the year aren't complete. In order the bridge this gap, we recommend consulting with your accountant to determine the estimated year-end depreciation. Then, taking 1/12th of that value, you can create a simple recurring journal entry to record that depreciation expense each month. The entry will be a debit to a 6-xxxx account (such as Depreciation Expense) and a credit to a (contra) asset 1-xxxx account (Accumulated Depreciation). Recording depreciation on a monthly basis helps keep your balance sheet report current at any particular time throughout the year.
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Depreciation for your state can be different than what you claim on the federal tax return. Check with your accountant to see what is applicable.
Additionally, these are some publications of interest to look at regarding depreciation:
Publication 463 – Travel, Entertainment, Gift & Car Expense
Publication 551 – Basis of Assets
Publication 946 – How to Depreciate Property