On February 13, 2008, President Bush signed into law the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008. “The new law includes two tax incentives that would allow a much bigger write-off for horses and other depreciable property purchased and placed into service in 2008,” said Jay Hickey, President of the American Horse Council. The Act applies to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2007.

Increase of the Section 179 Expense

The first incentive for horse owners in the Act is an increase of the Internal Revenue Code Section 179 expensing allowance for horses purchased and placed into service in 2008 from $128,000 to $250,000.

How does Section 179 help horse owners? Typically, if horses or property for your horse business has a useful life of more than one year, the cost must be spread across several tax years as depreciation with a portion of the cost deducted each year.

But there is a way to immediately receive these income tax benefits in one year. The provisions of Section 179 allow horse businesses to fully expense tangible property in the year it is purchased.

The changes made in the Act mean that in 2008, a horse business can expense $250,000 in capital expenditures up to an overall investment limit of $800,000.

Eligible Property. The expensing allowance applies to horses, farm equipment and most other depreciable property such as trucks, trailers, and tractors purchased and placed into service in 2008 (but it would not include buildings such as barns or stables).

How it works. Assume a horse business purchases $750,000 of depreciable property (including horses, a pickup, and a new trailer) in 2008. That business can write off $250,000 on its 2008 tax return and depreciate the balance.

If a business spends more than $800,000 on depreciable property in 2008, the business will have gone over the $800,000 “overall investment limit” and will not be able to write off the full $250,000 deduction on its tax return. The expense allowance goes down one dollar for each dollar spent on eligible property over $800,000. Thus, if a business’s purchases were $900,000 in 2008, the expense allowance would go down by $100,000 for a total write off of $150,000.

How to Take Section 179 Expense. The Section 179 expense is not automatic. Taxpayers who want to take the deduction have to elect to do so. You make the election by taking your deduction on Form 4562. You must file the Form 4562 with your original tax return for the tax year the horse or property was placed in service. Importantly—you need to make the election before your tax return is due (including extensions). You cannot go back and elect the deduction in an amended return filed past the due date.

Deduction Limited to Taxable Income. Once you have determined the maximum deduction based on the amount of property purchased during the year, you then must past the aggregate income hurdle.

Your Section 179 deduction cannot create a taxable loss for your business. This means your aggregate taxable income from the active conduct of any trade or business must exceed the amount of your 179 deduction. The taxable income does not all have to be from your horse business. Active trade or business includes your wages at another job, your spouse’s wages, and any other active income you may have.

Thus, many business owners are able to take advantage of the deduction when they combine their horse business earnings with wages of a spouse or money earned in addition to (or before starting) their horse business.

Also, if you are not able to take the full 179 deduction one year because you do not have enough taxable income, any disallowed amounts can be carried forward to the next year and added to the cost of any eligible property place in service that year.

Other Benefits. Less obvious advantages of the Section 179 deduction include 1) it lowers adjusted gross income, which could help you qualify for various other deductions; 2) it lowers earned income, which can increase your earned income credit; and 3) it is allowed in full even if the eligible horse or property is placed in service on the last day of the year.