Capital Expenditures: Can You Deduct In The Same Year The Money Was Spent?

If you run a business, it is highly likely that you will need capital expenditure to operate it. Whether it’s buying equipment or paying for small-scale renovations, you might have wondered if you could deduct these expenses in the year they were incurred. A common question is can you deduct a capital expenditure the same year you spent the money? Read on to learn some important facts before making any deductions and filing your return. 

What are Capital Expenditures?

A capital expenditure, also known as a CAPEX or CapEx, is an investment in assets that will be used over more than one year. The purpose of a capital expense is to create or improve business assets. Capital assets are not consumed, but rather are used in the production process and thus become a part of the inventory of business assets.

For example, if you install a new piece of equipment in your office, that would be considered a capital expenditure. It is an expense that improves the value of your business and will help you generate more revenue in the future.

It’s important to note that capital expenditures are recorded differently than normal expenses because they are considered assets rather than costs. This means that they are depreciated over time instead of expensed immediately, which reduces both your taxable income and the amount you pay for taxes each year.

Different Types of Capital Expenditures

Capital expenditures are expenses that you pay to buy or improve tangible assets such as property, plant, and equipment. These expenditures are usually one-time expenses and may be depreciated over a period of years.

The following are different types of capital expenditures:


When you purchase a building and put it into service, that is a capital expenditure. The same is true if you purchase land and build a structure on it, even if the entire cost is allocated to the land.


Land is any property owned by a business with a useful life beyond one year and can be used for more than one business purpose. Examples include vacant lots used for parking spaces or shopping centers where multiple businesses rent space from the owner of the land.


Machinery is one example of a capital expenditure for small businesses. It can include machinery used for manufacturing products like sewing machines or lathes. It can also include machinery used for storing inventory like refrigerators or freezers used for food storage.


If you purchase a car for your business, the cost of the vehicle is a capital expenditure because it will be used in your business for more than one year (the IRS does not allow you to deduct interest on car loans). The depreciation deduction for the vehicle is taken over five years.

Office Furniture and Fixtures

Under this category, you’ll find all manner of business equipment. This includes desks, chairs, and computers that are used in your office on a daily basis by employees or customers. This also includes items such as signs, display cases, and artwork that are permanently affixed to walls or floors in your building or outside on sidewalks or in parking lots.

Computers and Software

Computer equipment and software are common examples of a capital expense. If you buy a computer or software for your business, you may be able to deduct its cost as a capital expenditure if it meets all of these requirements:

  • The computer or software is owned by your business and used exclusively by employees in performing services for customers.
  • You are not using any part of the asset as inventory or property held primarily for sale to customers (such as office supplies).
  • You haven’t deducted any part of the cost as an expense previously (for example, if there was a separate charge for installation).

Intangible Assets

Intangible assets are nonphysical resources that have value but do not have physical substance. Examples of intangible assets include patents and other intellectual property rights (IPRs), copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.

The Difference Between Capital Expenditures and Operating Expenses

Capital assets and expenses and operating expenses are two different types of expenses that can be deducted from your business income. 

These expenditures are expenses that add value to your business. They are also known as fixed assets or depreciable assets. For example, you might spend $10,000 on a new computer system for your office or buy an expensive piece of equipment. These are capital expenditures because they add value to your business and will last for more than one year.

Operating expenses are different from expenditures because they do not add value to your business. Instead, they allow you to continue operating as normal and provide a service or product to customers. For example, if you have a lease on an office space and pay rent every month, that is an operating expense because it allows you to keep doing business at that location.

When Do You Deduct Capital Expenditures?

These expenditures are generally deducted over a period of time, usually, years, called the asset’s depreciation period. The IRS has set guidelines for how long assets must be used in order to deduct their capital expenditure for business taxes. For example, if you bought a new car for your business and can’t deduct it all in year one, you will probably get some tax deductions and breaks over the next five or six years.

You can deduct the cost of an item that is expected to last more than one year as a capital expenditure. This includes buildings and equipment needed for your business operations. A business must depreciate these assets over their useful lives by claiming depreciation as an expense on its tax return each year until they are fully deducted from your taxable income.

The IRS allows a number of methods for deducting a business expense. Here are two of the most common examples:

Straight-Line Depreciation

Many small business owners choose the straight-line depreciation method as it is the simplest method in the tax laws. It allows you to deduct an equal amount each year for a fixed asset’s useful life.

Accelerated Depreciation

An accelerated depreciation allows you to claim more depreciation in the early years than in later years when your asset may be worth less than its original cost. Accelerated depreciation is available for most types of assets except real property (real estate).

Are There Any Rules Regarding Capital Expenditures?

Capital expenditures are a way for companies to grow and expand. However, there are rules that need to be followed when it comes to capital expenditures.

Long-Term Assets

One of these rules is that the capital expenditure must be used for a long-term asset. It cannot be used for an expense that will only benefit the company temporarily. If a company wants to make a capital expenditure on something like advertising or marketing, it may have trouble making the case that it will actually benefit them in the long term.

Write-Offs Over Many Years

Another rule is that companies can write off their capital expenditures over time. If they buy something like land, they can deduct it over several years instead of having to pay all of it at once. This means that they will pay less in taxes each year until the entire cost has been deducted from their income tax returns.

In general, capital expenditures can be deducted over a period of five years unless they involve improvements to land or buildings. If you buy an office building and it is your primary place of business, you must depreciate the entire building over 27.5 years instead of five years. You can’t claim this deduction unless you own the property for at least 12 months before starting construction and intend to use it as your main business location for at least three years after completion.

Matching Expenditures & Depreciation

Another important rule is that you must match capital expenditures with depreciation. For example, if you buy a new machine for your factory and use it to manufacture products, you need to depreciate the machine over its useful life. The amount of depreciation depends on how much of the machine’s life has elapsed, which is why accountants track your assets’ useful lives.

If you don’t match capital expenditures with depreciation, you might end up paying more taxes than necessary. You may also be tempted to inflate your income by recording higher sales than actual sales or by entering higher expenses than actual costs.

Capitalizing Expenses

The IRS has a very specific set of rules regarding which expenses can be capitalized and which cannot. The general rule is that if an item will have more than one year’s use, then it should be capitalized and depreciated over time. Let’s say you buy a computer monitor and expect to use it for five years then it should be depreciated over five years by recording depreciation each year on your tax return. However, if an item will only have one year’s use, then it should be expensed or deducted from your tax return as soon as possible (within twelve months).

The IRS requires businesses to report capital expenditures using Form 4562 when filing their taxes each year. This form helps determine how much depreciation can be claimed on these assets so that they can be taxed at the appropriate rate rather than as income in one lump sum at the end of each year.

What Are Examples of Capital Expenditures?

Capital expenditures are non-recurring purchases that add to a business’s assets and can’t be deducted as an expense. The IRS defines capital expenditures as “the purchase of fixed assets, such as land or buildings, equipment and machinery, and improvements or betterments made to increase the value or productivity of your property.”

Expenditures are usually deducted over several years. The IRS requires a business to divide its capital expenses by the estimated useful life of the asset in order to determine how much can be deducted each year on tax returns. For example, if a business spends $100,000 on equipment with an expected useful life of five years and wants to deduct $20,000 per year for the next five years, it must divide $20,000 by five years to get $4,000 per year.

Are Capital Expenditures Tax Deductible?

Capital expenditures are deductible, but there are limits to the amount you can write off each year. The IRS allows you to deduct the cost of buying property or making improvements to property if you expect to generate revenue from it.

In general, the expenses must be for something that lasts more than one year and have a useful life of more than one year. If the asset has a useful life of less than one year, you generally can’t claim it as a tax deduction. For example, if you buy a new computer for your business, it’s considered a capital expenditure because it has a useful life of more than one year for your business operations.

The IRS also requires that you depreciate most capital expenditures over their expected useful lives. Capital expenditures, however, can be deducted in the year they were incurred, provided that they meet certain criteria. The amount of your deduction depends on the type of asset and its business purpose.

If you buy a piece of equipment and use it to generate income, you may be able to deduct part or all of its cost right away. This is known as expensing an asset and is allowed under Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). Section 179 only applies to certain types of equipment used by businesses. However, in most cases, you will have to depreciate your assets over time according to IRS rules.

Key Takeaways

So, can you deduct capital expenditures in the year there were incurred? The quick answer is no, you can’t deduct these expenses in the same year the money was spent. As you probably know, Capital expenditures are expenses that you incur in order to improve your business. They are generally depreciated over time, which means that you deduct a certain percentage of the value of the expense each year.

The bottom line: if you are unsure whether your purchases are considered capital expenses and eligible for a deduction, be sure to consult with a tax professional before making the purchase. You don’t want to assume you’re in the clear, only to find out later that you overlooked something important.

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