Can I Write Off the Car I Buy for My Business?

How To Get a Section 179 Deduction for Buying a Business Vehicle

Section 179 Deduction for SUV
Section 179 Deduction for SUV for Business. Photo: Markus Bernhard/Getty Images

You can write off part or all of the purchase price of a new or "new to you" car or truck for your business by taking a section 179 deduction. This special deduction allows you to deduct up to the entire cost of the vehicle in the first year you use it if you are using it primarily for business purposes. 

Key Takeaways

  • Section 179 of the tax code lets you write off some or all of the purchase price of vehicle you buy for your business, provided you meet the requirements.
  • In order to take the deduction, you must use the car for business more than 50% of the time, and you can only deduct the percentage that you use for work.
  • The vehicle must meet certain requirements, such as weighing between 6,000 and 14,000 pounds.
  • You can't write off the purchase price and claim the standard mileage deduction in the same year.
  • You can't deduct more than your business's net income for the year.

How Section 179 Deductions Work

A section 179 deduction is a special kind of tax deduction that businesses can take to reduce expenses. You can elect to take this deduction on the cost of certain types of business property. including business vehicles, instead of (or in addition to) recovering the cost by depreciating the property (spreading out the cost over several years).

Section 179 Deductions Only for Employers

Most employees can no longer take a section 179 deduction for a business vehicle. This deduction was part of miscellaneous deductions on Schedule A, and these deductions have been suspended.

A few categories of employees, including Armed Forces reservists, qualifying performing artists, state or local government officials, or employees with impairment-related work expenses may still be able to take this deduction.

Qualifications for Section 179 Deductions

To qualify for a section 179 deduction for a business vehicle, it must be bought and put into service during the year in which you are applying for the section 179 deduction. Being placed in service means that a business asset is ready and available for specific use in a business or for the production of income.

In addition, the vehicle:

  • Must be eligible property, including vehicles, machinery, furniture, and fixtures. Land and leased property are not eligible.
  • Your company must buy it for business purposes.

The most important qualification for section 179 deduction purposes is business use. You can only take a section 179 deduction for vehicles used more than 50% of the time for business purposes. The deduction is limited to the amount of use and can't be taken on personal use.

Section 179 Deductions and Depreciation

Section 179 deductions work like depreciation. The purpose of depreciation is to spread the expense (and tax deductions) of owning a business asset like a car or truck over the life of that asset.

Normally, depreciation is deducted as an expense to the business over the life of the equipment or vehicle. But a section 179 deduction allows you to take more of the expense of the purchase in the first year.

Note

You may be able to combine a section 179 deduction with depreciation on a vehicle in a specific tax year. For example, a section 179 deduction can also be used with a depreciation method called bonus depreciation to save on taxes when you buy a business vehicle. But bonus depreciation allowances will be phased down beginning in 2023 and will be eliminated in 2026. Check with your tax professional for qualifications and limits on depreciation.

Limits on Section 179 Deductions

There are two limits on the amount you can elect to deduction under section 179.

Dollar Limits

The total amount you can take as section 179 deductions for most property (including vehicles) placed in service in a specific year can't be more than $1,080,000. In other words, all section 179 deductions for all business property for a year can't be greater than $1,080,000 for the 2022 tax year. The dollar amount is adjusted each year for inflation. There is also a "phase-out" limit of $2,700,000.

In addition to the general dollar limits, the maximum section 179 expense deduction for sport utility vehicles placed in service in tax years beginning in 2022 is $27,000.

Note

The IRS specifies that the vehicle must be a "4-wheeled vehicle primarily designed or used to carry passengers over public streets, roads, or highways, that is rated at more than 6,000 pounds gross vehicle weight and not more than 14,000 pounds gross vehicle weight."

Business Income Limit

After you apply the dollar limit, the total cost you can deduct each year—including section 179 deductions—is limited to the taxable income from your business during that year. In other words, you can't use a section 179 deduction to cause your business to have a loss. If you can't take all or part of a section 179 deduction in one year, you can carry it over to the next year.

The calculation for this limit is complicated and it's different for each business. See the instructions for IRS Publication 946 for more details.

How To Take the Deduction

You or your tax preparer will need to complete IRS Form 4562 Depreciation and Amortization. Follow the instructions for Part I.

Key Requirements and Restrictions

  • The vehicle must be new or "new to you," meaning that you can buy a used vehicle if it is used first during the year you take the deduction.
  • The vehicle may not be used for transporting people or property for hire. 
  • You can't deduct more than the cost of the vehicle as a business expense.
  • You must put the vehicle "into service" (use it in your business) by December 31 of the tax year. If you don't use it, you can't get the deduction, so make sure you can prove the vehicle was used in your business by the end of December, in case of a tax audit.
  • You cannot deduct more than your business net income for the year.

Note

Some states have restrictions and additional limits on section 179 deductions. Check with your state's taxing authority for the details.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much of my car can I write off for business?

You can write off the whole cost of ownership and operation, within limits, if you only use the car for business purposes. If you use the car for both personal and business purposes, you can only deduct the cost of its business use.

What kinds of vehicles can you write off with Section 179?

Any four-wheeled vehicle designed to carry passengers, including cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs weighing between 6,000 and 14,000 pounds can qualify for at least a portion of Section 179.

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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. IRS. "Publication 946 How to Depreciate Property." Electing the Section 179 Deduction. Page 15.

  2. IRS. "Instructions for Form 2106 (2021)."

  3. IRS. "Publication 946 How to Depreciate Property." Placed in Service. Page 108.

  4. IRS. "Publication 946 How to Depreciate Property." What Property Qualifies? Page 16.

  5. United States Congress. "Public Law 115-97 - Dec. 22, 2017," Page 53.

  6. IRS. "Publication 946 How to Depreciate Property." Page 2.

  7. IRS. "Publication 946 How to Depreciate Property." Sport Utility and Certain Other Vehicles. Page 18.

  8. IRS. "Publication 946 How to Depreciate Property." Business Income Limit. Page 19.

  9. IRS. "Topic No. 510 Business Use of Car."

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