It happens all the time. A client comes in with the receipt for their new hybrid or electric vehicle and is expecting a huge tax credit to offset some of the purchase expense. It’s a fact that hybrid and electric vehicles cost more (some estimates say an average of $19K more) than their internal combustion engine (ICE) based counterparts. And, despite the fact that hybrids and fully electric vehicles continue to gain market share, it has continued to be difficult to quantify exactly how much fuel and maintenance cost savings offset the larger price tag. Often, the time span for offsetting the difference in purchase price is much longer than many taxpayers want to keep their cars. Taxpayers often hope tax credits will help them to recoup the difference in purchase price more quickly than fuel and maintenance cost savings. Do they? Are electric vehicle tax credits really worth it? Well—it depends.
Buying a vehicle is a way to potentially receive a large tax deduction, but is it always the best thing to do? What about buying versus leasing? The tax code treats vehicles differently from other types of assets and business expenses, so it helps to make sure you’re informed when thinking about using your vehicle to reduce your tax liability. Background A vehicle purchase by a business is treated as the purchase of an asset. This means you can deduct part of the expense each year in the form of depreciation deductions. Vehicles also might qualify for accelerated depreciation methods. In this current era of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and 100% bonus depreciation, that means a 100% deduction when you buy a vehicle … right? Not so fast. Section 280F of the Tax Code places restrictions on depreciation deductions for vehicles. The terminology used in this section of the Code is “luxury vehicle” (in fact the title of §280F is “Limitation on depreciation for luxury automobiles”), but this is a misleading term. When we think of “luxury vehicle” we likely think of a high-end vehicle. But the reality is, the tax law defines such a vehicle as any 4-wheeled vehicle with an unloaded gross vehicle weight of 6,000 pounds or less. I bet you didn’t think your 5 year old minivan with high mileage falls into the “luxury vehicle category,” but it can! This means you may be limited in how much you can write off against your taxable income. Can leasing a vehicle work as a way to get around the §280F limitations? The IRS has thought about that too. But keep reading - we’ll give you some loopholes that work around the luxury auto limitation and help you decide if leasing or buying your next vehicle will help you pay less in tax.READ MORE