The Internal Revenue Service defines business assets as any real property or depreciable personal property you use in your business. That includes, for example, buildings, computer equipment, vehicles and office furniture, plus intangible assets such as copyrights and patents. Depreciable assets must have a lifespan longer than a year; office supplies and snacks don't qualify. Assets you buy and sell as investments, such as stocks, are capital assets, not business assets.
Why Assets Matter
Identifying your business's depreciable assets is important, because they're a source of several tax write-offs. If you buy new business assets, the IRS' "Section 179" rule may allow you to deduct the entire purchase price. If you can't claim a 179 deduction, you can write off the purchase price gradually by depreciating assets over several years. Any property taxes you pay for business assets are deductible, as are repair and maintenance bills. Repairs that actually extend the life of an asset or constitute a major upgrade are an exception. To the IRS this is the equivalent of buying a new asset, so you have to depreciate the cost.
Assets and Records
If the IRS ever audits your business, it will want hard evidence of any assets you claim to own. You'll need records showing when and how you purchased the asset, the price you paid and any deductions for depreciation or Section 179 write-offs. If you sell any assets, you'll need records of the sale price. Purchase records, sale records and canceled checks can help prove your case.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.