MACRS Recovery Periods Under the General Depreciation System (GDS)

Depreciable assets, except for buildings, fall within a three-year, five-year, seven-year, 10-year, 15-year, or 20-year recovery period under the general depreciation system (GDS).

However, the actual recovery period shown in the MACRS depreciation tables show a recovery period of one additional year. This is because of the convention rules.

Under the half-year convention you may only deduct 50% of the first year's depreciation. This is because the half-year convention treats property as being purchased in the middle of the year regardless of when you actually purchased the property during the year. The balance of depreciation, the remaining 50%, is written off in the year after the last class life year of the property.

Also note that, under the half-year convention, if the property is sold, only one-half of the full depreciation for that year is deductible.

If you look at the MACRS table (shown below) for 5-year property,such as computers, you'll notice that the span of years for the recovery period is six years. This is because, under the half-year convention:

  • Only 50% of the first year's depreciation is deductible.
  • From the second year through the fifth year, a full year's depreciation is deductible each of those years.
  • The balance of depreciation is written off in the year after the last class life year. For 5-year property that's the sixth year. So, 1/2 + 5 + 1/2 (the balance remaining in the last year after the class life year) equals 6 years.
Property Class Under GDS Recovery Period Examples of Property
3-year 4 years
  • Tractor units for over-the-road use
  • Any race horse over 2 years old when placed in service. (All race horses placed in service after December 31, 2008, and before January 1, 2017, are deemed to be 3-year property, regardless of age.)
  • Any other horse (other than a race horse) over 12 years old when placed in service
  • Qualified rent-to-own property (defined later)
5-year 6 years
  • Automobiles, taxis, buses, and trucks
  • Computers and peripheral equipment
  • Office machinery (such as typewriters, calculators, and copiers)
  • Any property used in research and experimentation
  • Breeding cattle and dairy cattle
  • Appliances, such as refrigerators and stoves used in rental activities, carpets, furniture, etc., used in a residential rental real estate activity
  • Certain geothermal, solar, and wind energy property
7-Year 8 Years
  • Office furniture and fixtures (such as desks, files, and safes)
  • Agricultural machinery and equipment
  • Railroad track
  • Certain motorsports entertainment complex property (defined later) placed in service before January 1, 2017
  • Any natural gas gathering line placed in service after April 11, 2005
  • Any property that does not have a class life and has not been designated by law as being in any other class
10-year 11 years
  • Vessels, barges, tugs, and similar water transportation equipment
  • Any single purpose agricultural or horticultural structure
  • Any tree or vine bearing fruits or nuts
  • Qualified small electric meter and qualified smart electric grid system (defined later) placed in service on or after October 3, 2008.
15-year 16 Years
  • Certain improvements made directly to land or added to it (such as shrubbery, fences, roads, sidewalks, and bridges)
  • Any retail motor fuels outlet (defined later), such as a convenience store
  • Any municipal wastewater treatment plant
  • Any qualified leasehold improvement property (defined later)
  • Any qualified restaurant property (defined later)
  • Initial clearing and grading land improvements for gas utility property
  • Electric transmission property (that is section 1245 property) used in the transmission at 69 or more kilovolts of electricity placed in service after April 11, 2005
  • Any natural gas distribution line placed in service after April 11, 2005, and before January 1, 2011
  • Any qualified retail improvement property
  • Any telephone distribution plant and comparable equipment used for 2-way exchange of voice and data communications.
20-year 25 years
  • Farm buildings (other than single purpose agricultural or horticultural structures)
  • Municipal sewers not classified as 25-year property
  • Initial clearing and grading land improvements for electric utility transmission and distribution plants.
25-Year 20 years for property placed in service before June 13, 1996, or under a binding contract in effect before June 10, 1996. This class is water utility property, which is either of the following:
  • Property that is an integral part of the gathering, treatment, or commercial distribution of water, and that, without regard to this provision, would be 20-year property
  • Municipal sewers other than property placed in service under a binding contract in effect at all times since June 9, 1996.
Residential rental property 27.5 Years Residential rental property placed in service after December 31, 1986. Must use straight-line depreciation, mid-month convention. This property, which is subject to the 27.5-year recovery period, is defined as a rental building or structure for which 80% or more of the gross rental income for the tax year is rental income from dwelling units. If you occupy any part of the building, the gross rental income includes the fair rental value of the part you occupy. This property does NOT include a unit in a hotel, motel, inn, or other establishment where more than one-half of the units are used on a transient basis.
Nonresidential real property 31.5 years Nonresidential real property placed in service after December 31, 1986, but before May 13, 1993. Must use straight-line depreciation, mid-month convention
Nonresidential real property 39 Years Nonresidential real property placed in service after May 12, 1993. Must use straight-line depreciation, mid-month convention.

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