IRS Tax Forms  
Publication 551 2001 Tax Year

Adjusted Basis

Before figuring gain or loss on a sale, exchange, or other disposition of property or figuring allowable depreciation, depletion, or amortization, you must usually make certain adjustments to the basis of the property. The result of these adjustments to the basis is the adjusted basis.

Increases to Basis

Increase the basis of any property by all items properly added to a capital account. These include the cost of any improvements having a useful life of more than 1 year.

Rehabilitation expenses also increase basis. However, you must subtract any rehabilitation credit allowed for these expenses before you add them to your basis. If you have to recapture any of the credit, increase your basis by the recapture amount.

If you make additions or improvements to business property, keep separate accounts for them. Also, depreciate the basis of each according to the depreciation rules that would apply to the underlying property had you placed it in service at the same time you placed the addition or improvement in service. For more information, see Publication 946.

The following items increase the basis of property.

  • The cost of extending utility service lines to the property.
  • Legal fees, such as the cost of defending and perfecting title.
  • Legal fees for obtaining a decrease in an assessment levied against property to pay for local improvements.
  • Zoning costs.
  • The capitalized value of a redeemable ground rent.

Assessments for Local Improvements

Increase the basis of property by assessments for items such as paving roads and building ditches that increase the value of the property assessed. Do not deduct them as taxes. However, you can deduct as taxes charges for maintenance, repairs, or interest charges related to the improvements.

Example. Your city changes the street in front of your store into an enclosed pedestrian mall and assesses you and other affected landowners for the cost of the conversion. Add the assessment to your property's basis. In this example, the assessment is a depreciable asset.

Deducting vs. Capitalizing Costs

Do not add to your basis costs you can deduct as current expenses. For example, amounts paid for incidental repairs or maintenance that are deductible as business expenses cannot be added to basis. However, you can choose either to deduct or to capitalize certain other costs. If you capitalize these costs, include them in your basis. If you deduct them, do not include them in your basis. (See Uniform Capitalization Rules, earlier.)

The costs you can choose to deduct or to capitalize include the following.

  • Carrying charges, such as interest and taxes, that you pay to own property, except carrying charges that must be capitalized under the uniform capitalization rules.
  • Research and experimentation costs.
  • Intangible drilling and development costs for oil, gas, and geothermal wells.
  • Exploration costs for new mineral deposits.
  • Mining development costs for a new mineral deposit.
  • Costs of establishing, maintaining, or increasing the circulation of a newspaper or other periodical.
  • Cost of removing architectural and transportation barriers to people with disabilities and the elderly. If you claim the disabled access credit, you must reduce the amount you deduct or capitalize by the amount of the credit.

For more information about deducting or capitalizing costs, see chapter 8 in Publication 535.

Table 1. Examples of Increases and Decreases to Basis

Decreases to Basis

The following items reduce the basis of property.

  • Section 179 deduction.
  • Deduction for clean-fuel vehicles and refueling property.
  • Nontaxable corporate distributions.
  • Deductions previously allowed (or allowable) for amortization, depreciation, and depletion.
  • Exclusion of subsidies for energy conservation measures.
  • Credit for qualified electric vehicles.
  • Postponed gain from sale of home.
  • Investment credit (part or all) taken.
  • Casualty and theft losses and insurance reimbursements.
  • Certain canceled debt excluded from income.
  • Rebates received from a manufacturer or seller.
  • Easements.
  • Gas-guzzler tax.
  • Tax credit or refund for buying a diesel-powered highway vehicle.
  • Adoption tax benefits.

Some of these items are discussed next.

Casualties and Thefts

If you have a casualty or theft loss, decrease the basis in your property by the amount of any insurance or other reimbursement and by any deductible loss not covered by insurance.

You must increase your basis in the property by the amount you spend on repairs that substantially prolong the life of the property, increase its value, or adapt it to a different use. To make this determination, compare the repaired property to the property before the casualty. For more information on casualty and theft losses, see Publication 547, Casualties, Disasters, and Thefts.


The amount you receive for granting an easement is generally considered to be a sale of an interest in real property. It reduces the basis of the affected part of the property. If the amount received is more than the basis of the part of the property affected by the easement, reduce your basis in that part to zero and treat the excess as a recognized gain.

Credit for Qualified Electric Vehicles

If you claim the credit for a qualified electric vehicle, you must reduce your basis in that vehicle by the lesser of the following amounts.

  • $4,000.
  • 10% of the vehicle's cost.

This basis reduction rule applies even if the credit allowed is less than the reduction. For more information on this credit, see chapter 12 in Publication 535.

Gas-Guzzler Tax

Decrease the basis in your car by the gas-guzzler (fuel economy) tax if you begin using the car within 1 year of the date of its first sale for ultimate use. This rule also applies to someone who later buys the car and begins using it not more than 1 year after the original sale for ultimate use. If the car is imported, the one-year period begins on the date of entry or withdrawal of the car from the warehouse if that date is later than the date of the first sale for ultimate use.

Diesel-Powered Vehicle

If you received an income tax credit or refund for a diesel-powered highway vehicle purchased before August 21, 1996, reduce your basis in that vehicle by the credit or refund allowable.

Section 179 Deduction

If you take the section 179 deduction for all or part of the cost of qualifying business property, decrease the basis of the property by the deduction. For more information about the section 179 deduction, see Publication 946.

Deduction for Clean-Fuel Vehicles and Refueling Property

If you take the deduction for clean-fuel vehicles or clean-fuel vehicle refueling property, decrease the basis of the property by the amount of the deduction. For more information about these deductions, see chapter 12 in Publication 535.

Exclusion of Subsidies for Energy Conservation Measures

You can exclude from gross income any subsidy you received from a public utility company for the purchase or installation of any energy conservation measure for a dwelling unit. Reduce the basis of the property for which you received the subsidy by the excluded amount. For more information on this subsidy, see Publication 525.


Decrease the basis of property by the depreciation you deducted, or could have deducted, on your tax returns under the method of depreciation you chose. If you took less depreciation than you could have under the method chosen, decrease the basis by the amount you could have taken under that method. If you did not take a depreciation deduction, reduce the basis by the full amount of the depreciation you could have taken.

If you deducted more depreciation than you should have, decrease your basis by the amount equal to the depreciation you should have deducted plus the part of the excess depreciation you deducted that actually reduced your tax liability for the year.

In decreasing your basis for depreciation, take into account the amount deducted on your tax returns as depreciation and any depreciation capitalized under the uniform capitalization rules.

For information on figuring depreciation, see Publication 946.

If you are claiming depreciation on a business vehicle, see Publication 463. If the car is not used more than 50% for business during the tax year, you may have to recapture excess depreciation. Include the excess depreciation in your gross income and add it to your basis in the property. For information on the computation of excess depreciation, see chapter 4 in Publication 463.

Canceled Debt Excluded From Income

If a debt you owe is canceled or forgiven, other than as a gift or bequest, you generally must include the canceled amount in your gross income for tax purposes. A debt includes any indebtedness for which you are liable or which attaches to property you hold.

You can exclude your canceled debt from income in the following situations.

  1. Debt canceled in a bankruptcy case or when you are insolvent.
  2. Qualified farm debt.
  3. Qualified real property business debt (provided you are not a C corporation).

If you exclude from income canceled debt under situation (1) or (2), you may have to reduce the basis of your depreciable and nondepreciable property. However, in situation (3), you must reduce the basis of your depreciable property by the excluded amount.

For more information about canceled debt in a bankruptcy case or during insolvency, see Publication 908, Bankruptcy Tax Guide. For more information about canceled debt that is qualified farm debt, see chapter 4 in Publication 225. For more information about qualified real property business debt, see chapter 5 in Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business.

Postponed Gain From Sale of Home

If you postponed gain from the sale of your main home before May 7, 1997, you must reduce the basis of your new home by the postponed gain. For more information on the rules for the sale of a home, see Publication 523.

Adoption Tax Benefits

If you claim an adoption credit for the cost of improvements you added to the basis of your home, decrease the basis of your home by the credit allowed. This also applies to amounts you received under an employer's adoption assistance program and excluded from income. For more information on these benefits, see Publication 968, Tax Benefits for Adoption.


In January 1995, you paid $80,000 for real property to be used as a factory. You also paid commissions of $2,000 and title search and legal fees of $600. You allocated the total cost of $82,600 between the land and the building--$10,325 for the land and $72,275 for the building. Immediately you spent $20,000 in remodeling the building before you placed it in service. You were allowed depreciation of $14,526 for the years 1995 through 1999. In 1998 you had a casualty loss that was not covered by insurance of $5,000 on the building from a fire. You claimed this loss as a deduction and spent $5,500 to repair the fire damages. The adjusted basis of the building on January 1, 2000, is figured as follows:

Original cost of building, including fees and commissions  $72,275
Adjustments to basis:
 Improvements  20,000
 Repair of fire damages  5,500
 Depreciation $14,526
 Deducted casualty loss 5,000 19,526
Adjusted basis on January 1, 2000  $78,249

The basis of the land, $10,325, remains unchanged. It is not affected by any of the above adjustments, which affect only the basis of the building.

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