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Do I have to pay capital gains tax when I sell my plane?



The sale of a business aircraft typically results in a taxable gain arising out of the tax depreciation rules. As a long-lived asset, when a plane is purchased, its price cannot be simply written off, but it is depreciated over a number of years. The tax code specifies the depreciation rate and it is highly accelerated. General aviation aircraft can easily last 30 or 40 years, but most are depreciated over a five-year period, which means significant tax deductions in the first years of business operations. When it comes time to sell, the amount by which the tax depreciation has been greater than the plane’s actual loss in value will be a taxable gain, but not at capital gain rates. Instead, it is ordinary income. If the aircraft has truly appreciated, meaning it is sold for more than it was purchased for, then that amount and only that amount, will be treated as a capital gain.

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