Claiming a depreciation expense allows you to take a dollar amount that equates to about 3.6% (residential) or 2.5% (commercial) of the value of an investment property building (excluding the value of the land) as an expense for a number of years (27.5 for residential and 39 for commercial) to lower your annual taxes due to the IRS. This means when you calculate your net income each year for a residential investment property that is worth $300,000 (excluding the land value), you would deduct $10,909 from your net profit number before you calculate your tax liability. This means you are not paying taxes on that $10,909 if you record your depreciation expense.
When you are ready to sell the property, taxes do become due on the amount you deducted each year but it is still best to take the deprecation expense. Even if you don’t claim the expense each year, the IRS will calculate your capital gains taxes as if you had.
To avoid taxes on capital gains when you sell an investment property, consider a 1031 exchange. If you plan to take your profit from one investment property and use it to buy a similar investment property this option might work for you. Speak to your accountant about this option and make sure you understand the requirements. There are various rules regarding the handling of funds and deadlines that must be met in order to avoid the tax implications.
(Please note this blog should not be construed as financial advice. It reflects my opinion and experience only, which might not apply to you. Always consult your accountant before you make financial and tax decisions.)