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What Is Cost Segregation

Cost segregation is a tax strategy used by real estate owners and investors in the United States to accelerate depreciation deductions for specific components of their commercial properties. Cost segregation aims to reduce current income tax liabilities and increase cash flow by identifying and reclassifying particular assets within a building to shorter depreciation periods.

Here's how it works

Depreciation Basics

When you own a commercial property, you can deduct its cost over time to account for its gradual wear and tear. This deduction is known as depreciation. However, not all components of a building have the same useful life. The IRS provides specific depreciation schedules for different property types and features.

Identifying Shorter-Lived Assets

Cost segregation involves identifying components of a property that have shorter depreciable lives than the building itself. For example, HVAC, lighting, plumbing, electrical, and specific finishes may have shorter lives than the overall building structure.


Once these shorter-lived assets are identified, they are reclassified as personal property or land improvements rather than part of the building's structure. Private property and land improvements can be depreciated more rapidly, typically over 5, 7, or 15 years, compared to the 27.5 or 39 years for commercial buildings.

Accelerated Depreciation

By reclassifying these assets, property owners can accelerate their depreciation deductions. This means they can deduct a more significant portion of the property's cost in the early years of ownership, resulting in reduced taxable income and lower tax liabilities.

IRS Compliance

To ensure the cost segregation study is IRS-compliant, it must adhere to specific guidelines and regulations. This includes hiring qualified professionals, such as engineers or appraisers, to perform the study and producing detailed reports to support the reclassification of assets.

Cost segregation studies are invaluable for property owners, especially those with high-value commercial properties. It can provide immediate tax savings, increase cash flow, and improve real estate investments’ return on investment (ROI). However, it’s essential to ensure that cost segregation studies are conducted in compliance with IRS rules to avoid audit issues. It may seem obvious, but as professionals, we see an increasing number of studies that are poorly done and at risk of scrutiny from the IRS.

Remember that tax laws and regulations can change, so it’s advisable to consult with tax professionals or cost segregation experts who are up to date with the latest tax codes and guidelines before pursuing cost segregation for your property.

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Case Study

Medical Office Building in Los Angeles, CA
First Year Increased Depreciation: $1.01M

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