To be deductible, a business expense must be both ordinary and
necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and
accepted in your trade or business. A necessary expense is
one that is helpful and appropriate for your trade or business. An
expense does not have to be indispensable to be considered necessary.
It is important to separate business expenses from the following
- The expenses used to figure the cost of goods sold.
- Capital expenses.
- Personal expenses.
If you have an expense that is partly for business and partly
personal, separate the personal part from the business part.
Cost of Goods Sold
If your business manufactures products or purchases them for
resale, some of your expenses may be included in figuring cost of
goods sold. You deduct cost of goods sold from your gross receipts to
figure your gross profit for the year. You must maintain inventories
to be able to determine your cost of goods sold. If you use an expense
to figure the cost of goods sold, you cannot deduct it again as a
The following are types of expenses that go into figuring cost of
- The cost of products or raw materials in your inventory,
including the cost of having them shipped to you.
- The cost of storing the products you sell.
- Direct labor costs (including contributions to pension or
annuity plans) for workers who produce the products.
- Factory overhead expenses.
Under the uniform capitalization rules, you must capitalize the
direct costs and part of the indirect costs for production or resale
activities. Indirect costs include rent, interest, taxes, storage,
purchasing, processing, repackaging, handling, and administrative
costs. This rule does not apply to personal property you acquire for
resale if your average annual gross receipts (or those of your
predecessor) for the preceding 3 tax years are not more than $10
For more information, see the following sources.
You must capitalize, rather than deduct, some costs. These costs
are a part of your investment in your business and are called
"capital expenses." There are, in general, three types of costs
- Going into business.
- Business assets.
Although you generally cannot take a current deduction for a
capital expense, you may be able to take deductions for the amount you
spend through depreciation, amortization, or depletion. These allow
you to deduct part of your cost each year over a number of years. In
this way you are able to "recover" your capital expense. See
Amortization (chapter 9) and Depletion (chapter
10) in this publication. For information on depreciation, see
Going Into Business
The costs of getting started in business, before you actually begin
business operations, are capital expenses. These costs may include
expenses for advertising, travel, or wages for training employees.
If you go into business.
When you go into business, treat all costs you had to get your
business started as capital expenses.
Usually you recover costs for a particular asset through
depreciation. Generally, you cannot recover other costs until you sell
the business or otherwise go out of business. However, you can choose
to amortize certain costs for setting up your business. See Going
Into Business in chapter 9 for more information on business
If you do not go into business.
If you are an individual and your attempt to go into business is
not successful, the expenses you had in trying to establish yourself
in business fall into two categories.
- The costs you had before making a decision to acquire or
begin a specific business. These costs are personal and nondeductible.
They include any costs incurred during a general search for, or
preliminary investigation of, a business or investment
- The costs you had in your attempt to acquire or begin a
specific business. These costs are capital expenses and you can deduct
them as a capital loss.
If you are a corporation and your attempt to go into a new trade or
business is not successful, you may be able to deduct all
investigatory costs as a loss.
The costs of any assets acquired during your unsuccessful attempt
to go into business are a part of your basis in the assets. You cannot
take a deduction for these costs. You will recover the costs of these
assets when you dispose of them.
The cost of any asset you use in your business is a capital
expense. There are many different kinds of business assets, such as
land, buildings, machinery, furniture, trucks, patents, and franchise
rights. You must capitalize the full cost of the asset, including
freight and installation charges.
If you produce certain property for use in your trade or business,
capitalize the production costs under the uniform capitalization
rules. See section 1.263A-2 of the regulations for information
on those rules.
The costs of making improvements to a business asset are capital
expenses if the improvements add to the value of the asset,
appreciably lengthen the time you can use it, or adapt it to a
different use. You can deduct repairs that keep your property in a
normal efficient operating condition as a business expense.
Improvements include new electric wiring, a new roof, a new floor,
new plumbing, bricking up windows to strengthen a wall, and lighting
Capitalize the cost of reconditioning, improving, or altering your
property as part of a general restoration plan to make it suitable for
your business. This applies even if some of the work would by itself
be classified as repairs.
You cannot deduct the cost of a replacement that stops
deterioration and adds to the life of your property. Capitalize that
cost and depreciate it.
Treat as repairs amounts paid to replace parts of a machine that
only keep it in a normal operating condition. However, if your
equipment has a major overhaul, capitalize and depreciate the expense.
Capital or Deductible Expenses
To help you distinguish between capital and deductible expenses,
several different items are discussed below.
Business motor vehicles.
You usually capitalize the cost of a motor vehicle you buy to use
in your business. You can recover its cost through annual deductions
There are dollar limits on the depreciation you can claim each year
on passenger automobiles used in your business. See Publication 463.
Repairs you make to your business vehicle are deductible expenses.
However, amounts you pay to recondition and overhaul a business
vehicle are capital expenses.
Roads and driveways.
The costs of building a private road on your business property and
the cost of replacing a gravel driveway with a concrete one are
capital expenses you may be able to depreciate. The cost of
maintaining a private road on your business property is a deductible
Unless the uniform capitalization rules apply, amounts spent for
tools used in your business are deductible expenses if the tools have
a life expectancy of less than 1 year.
Unless the uniform capitalization rules apply, the cost of
replacing short-lived parts of a machine to keep it in good working
condition and not add to its life is a deductible expense.
The cost of changing from one heating system to another is a
Generally, you cannot deduct personal, living, or family expenses.
However, if you have an expense for something that is used partly for
business and partly for personal purposes, divide the total cost
between the business and personal parts. You can deduct as a business
expense only the business part.
For example, if you borrow money and use 70% of it for business and
the other 30% for a family vacation, generally you can deduct as a
business expense only 70% of the interest you pay on the loan. The
remaining 30% is personal interest that is not deductible. See chapter
5 for information on deducting interest and the allocation rules.
Business use of your home.
If you use part of your home for business, you may be able to
deduct expenses for the business use of your home. These expenses may
include mortgage interest, insurance, utilities, repairs, and
To qualify to claim expenses for the business use of your home, you
must meet the following tests.
- The business part of your home must be used exclusively and
regularly for your trade or business.
- The business part of your home must be one of the
- Your principal place of business.
- A place where you meet or deal with patients, clients, or
customers in the normal course of your trade or business.
- A separate structure (not attached to your home) you use in
connection with your trade or business.
You generally do not have to meet the exclusive use test for the
part of your home that you regularly use in either of the following
- For the storage of inventory or product samples.
- As a day-care facility.
Your home office qualifies as your principal place of business if
you meet the following requirements.
- You use the office exclusively and regularly for
administrative or management activities of your trade or
- You have no other fixed location where you conduct
substantial administrative or management activities of your trade or
For more information, see Publication 587.
Business use of your car.
If you use your car in your business, you can deduct car expenses.
If you use your car for both business and personal purposes, you must
divide your expenses based on mileage. Only your expenses for the
miles you drove the car for business are deductible as business
You can deduct actual car expenses, which include depreciation (or
lease payments), gas and oil, tires, repairs, tune-ups, insurance, and
registration fees. Instead of figuring the business part of these
actual expenses, you may be able to use the standard mileage rate to
figure your deduction. For 2001, the standard mileage rate is 34 1/2 cents a mile for all business miles driven.
If you are self-employed, you can also deduct the business part of
interest on your car loan, state and local personal property tax on
the car, parking fees, and tolls, whether or not you claim the
standard mileage rate. You can use the nonbusiness part of the
personal property tax to determine your deduction for taxes on
Schedule A (Form 1040) if you itemize your deductions.
For more information on car expenses and the rules for using the
standard mileage rate, see Publication 463.
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