Business Vehicle Trade-Ins? Rules have changed over the years…

Here’s an example of a trade-in and the rules associated with it. A three-year-old vehicle was traded in on a new SUV with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 6,075 pounds.

The dealer granted a trade-in value of $13,000 and paid off the $16,000 remaining note on the old vehicle.

Under the tax law, after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, this is a sale of the old vehicle traded in and a purchase of the new SUV. So, we have two different transactions. In this story, We are going to deal with only the trade-in.

The seller used the vehicle that she traded in 70 percent for business, drove it 41,000 total miles, and used IRS mileage rates to calculate her business vehicle deductions. The seller paid $50,000 for the vehicle in 2018. Here’s how we calculated the tax-deductible loss:

Net purchase price (basis) $50,000
  2018: 18,000 x 25 cents 4,500
  2019: 16,000 x 26 cents 4,680
  2020: 7,000 x 27 cents 1,890
Total depreciation 11,070
Adjusted basis 38,930
Trade-in (sale)
  Trade value 13,000
  Pay off the loan 16,000
Total trade amount 29,000
Net loss on sale 9,930
Business percent 70%
Deductible loss $ 6,951


 Calculation. Because we believe it is easier, we use 100 percent for the calculations and then use the 70 percent business percentage to find the final amount—the deductible loss, in this case.

Depreciation. Within the IRS standard mileage rate is a component for depreciation. For example, the 2020 standard mileage rate is 57.5 cents a mile, with 27 cents for depreciation incorporated in that rate.

Trade-in. The dealer allowed $13,000 as the fair market value of the trade. This operates as cash when Joyce makes her purchase of the new SUV. In addition, the dealer paid off the existing note, so the total value of the trade for gain and loss purposes is $29,000 ($13,000 + $16,000).

Deductible loss. The $6,951 loss is an ordinary loss that Joyce reports on IRS Form 4797.

The important part of the seller’s story is that her trade-in, like all trade-ins of vehicles and other personal property, is a sale. And that means there’s a taxable gain or loss.



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