Can the entire acquisition cost of a computer that I purchased for my business be deducted as a business expense or do I have to use depreciation?
The entire acquisition cost of a computer purchased for business use can be expensed under Code section 179 in the first year if qualified, or depreciated over a 5-year recovery period. Under section 179, you can elect to recover all or part of the cost of certain qualifying property, up to a dollar limit, by deducting it in the year you place the property in service. You can elect to expense the cost of qualifying property instead of recovering the cost by taking depreciation. To claim the expense in the first year, the property must be used more than 50% for business use, and meet the other requirements for expensing. One of those requirements is that the total cost of qualifying property you can deduct after you apply the dollar limit is limited to the taxable income from the active conduct of any trade or business during the year. Any cost not deductible in one year under section 179 because of the business income limit can be carried to the next year.
For any taxable year beginning after 2002 and before 2006, a new law raised the aggregate cost that can be expensed under section 179 to $100,000 and also expanded the definition of Code section 179 property to include off-the-shelf computer software. See IRS site for Code Section 179 for the expanded definition.