Accelerated Depreciation in Real Estate: A Comprehensive Guide

Real estate investors are constantly seeking ways to maximize their returns on investment. One of the most effective strategies they can use is accelerated depreciation. Depreciation is a tax deduction that allows property owners to write off the cost of their assets over time. In this guide, we will explore in detail what accelerated depreciation in real estate means, its benefits and drawbacks, how it works, and when to use it.

Accelerated Depreciation in Real Estate: A Comprehensive Guide

What is Accelerated Depreciation in Real Estate?

Accelerated depreciation refers to a method of accounting that allows real estate investors to reduce their taxable income by claiming a larger portion of the depreciation deduction upfront. This reduces the investor’s tax liability, enabling them to keep more money from their rental properties.

While standard straight-line depreciation allows for an equal amount of deductions each year, accelerated depreciation front-loads these deductions into the earlier years. This accelerates the rate at which the investor can recover their initial investment and lower their tax bills.

How Does Accelerated Depreciation Work?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sets guidelines for how assets are depreciated. When purchasing an income-producing property, such as a rental property or commercial building, the owner can claim deductions on its value over time.

According to IRS rules, residential rental properties depreciate over 27.5 years while commercial properties depreciate over 39 years. Using straight-line depreciation, an investor would divide the property’s value by either 27.5 or 39 and then claim this amount as a deduction each year.

With accelerated depreciation in real estate, however, investors may claim larger deductions during the early years of ownership by using one of two methods: bonus depreciation or Section 179 expense deduction.

Bonus Depreciation

Bonus depreciation was first introduced as part of The Job Creation and Worker Assistance Act in 2002 but has undergone several changes since then. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, investors may write off 100% of the cost of qualifying property they purchase in the year it was placed into service.

Qualifying property includes new or used tangible personal property with a useful life of 20 years or less. This includes things like furniture, appliances, and equipment. Bonus depreciation can also be applied to qualified improvement property (QIP), which refers to any interior renovation projects made to non-residential properties after they were purchased.

Section 179 Expense Deduction

The Section 179 expense deduction is similar to bonus depreciation but applies mainly to small businesses. Under this method, businesses may deduct the full purchase price of qualifying equipment and/or software that was purchased or financed during a tax year.

For real estate investors, this means that they may use Section 179 to write off the entire cost of assets such as HVAC systems or security systems installed in their rental properties in a single tax year. However, there is an annual limit on how much you can deduct under this method – for example, $1,050,000 for tax year 2021.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Accelerated Depreciation in Real Estate

When it comes to tax deductions in real estate investment, accelerated depreciation can yield several benefits:

Lowered Tax Liability

Accelerated depreciation allows you to reduce your taxable income more quickly by front-loading your deductions into earlier years. By taking advantage of bonus depreciation or Section 179 expense deduction, you can lower your overall tax liability and save money on taxes each year.

Increased Cash Flow

Lower taxes mean increased cash flow for real estate investors. By reducing your tax bill through accelerated depreciation, you can reinvest more money into your rental properties and maximize profitability over time.

Quicker Return on Investment

Through accelerated depreciation deductions, real estate investors can recover their initial investment more quickly than through straight-line depreciation. This is because more substantial deductions in the early years free up more cash flow, enabling investors to take advantage of new investment opportunities.

However, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider before proceeding with accelerated depreciation deductions:

Higher Taxes in Future Years

Front-loading your deductions now can result in higher taxes owed in future years. This is because once you’ve claimed a large percentage of available depreciation upfront, you won’t have as much left to claim during later years, which could lead to a larger tax bill down the line.

Limits on Total Deductions

While bonus depreciation and Section 179 expense deduction allow for immediate write-offs of qualified assets, there are annual limits on how much can be deducted under these methods. This may restrict the number of properties or renovation projects that an investor can apply accelerated depreciation to each year.

When Should You Use Accelerated Depreciation?

Accelerated depreciation is most beneficial for real estate investors who:

  • Plan on holding onto their rental properties for several years
  • Are looking for ways to maximize cash flow and lower their overall tax bills
  • Are willing to invest in renovations or equipment upgrades that qualify for bonus depreciation/Section 179 expense deduction
  • Have a sizable initial investment and want to recover it more quickly

In general, if you’re looking for ways to reduce your tax liability and increase profitability through real estate investing, accelerated depreciation is worth considering. However, it’s crucial to consult with a tax professional before making any significant financial decisions involving real estate investment.


Accelerated depreciation offers many benefits for real estate investors seeking maximum returns on investment. By taking advantage of bonus depreciation or Section 179 expense deduction, investors can accelerate the rate at which they recover their initial investments while minimizing their overall tax liabilities. However, there are some potential drawbacks worth considering before moving forward. Ultimately, whether accelerated depreciation is right for your needs will depend on your specific financial situation and investment goals.


What is accelerated depreciation in real estate?

Accelerated depreciation is a tax strategy that allows real estate investors to depreciate the value of their property faster than normal through certain methods such as cost segregation.

How does accelerated depreciation work in real estate?

In simple terms, accelerated depreciation works by dividing the overall value of the property into different categories that have shorter deprecation schedules, allowing deductions to be taken faster.

What are the benefits of using accelerated depreciation in real estate?

The main benefit of using accelerated depreciation is that it can significantly reduce your taxable income and increase your cash flow. It can also help you offset any gains from property sales.

Who can benefit from using accelerated depreciation in real estate?

Anyone who owns a commercial or rental property can potentially benefit from using accelerated depreciation strategies. However, it’s important to consult with a tax professional to see if it’s right for your specific situation.

What are some common methods used for implementing accelerated depreciation in real estate?

Some common methods include cost segregation, bonus depreciation, Section 179 deductions, and first-year expensing. Each method has its own rules and eligibility criteria, so it’s important to choose the right one for your situation.

Is there a limit on how much I can deduct through accelerated depreciation in real estate?

There are limits on how much you can deduct each year through various methods like bonus depreciation and Section 179 deductions. However, they can still provide significant savings over time when used correctly.

What are some potential risks involved with implementing accelerated depreciation in real estate?

One risk is that if you sell the property before its full deprecation period has passed, you may have to recapture some of the previously deducted amounts as ordinary income. Also, the IRS may audit your tax return to ensure that you are following the rules correctly.

Can I use accelerated depreciation for my personal residence?

No, accelerated depreciation strategies typically only apply to commercial or rental properties, not primary residences. However, there may be some exceptions if you have a home office or other unique circumstances.

How can I determine if accelerated depreciation is right for my real estate investments?

The best way to determine if it’s right for you is to consult with a tax professional who specializes in real estate investments. They can help you analyze your specific situation and develop a strategy that maximizes your tax savings.

Are there any recent changes or updates to the laws governing accelerated depreciation in real estate?

Yes, there have been recent updates and changes to things like bonus depreciation rules and first-year expensing limits. It’s important to stay up-to-date on these changes so that you can take advantage of all available tax savings opportunities.

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