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Cost segregation is a powerful and sophisticated tax-saving strategy for commercial property investors. It involves identifying and classifying the non-structural components of a building as personal property instead of real property. This allows investors to depreciate these assets at a faster rate, leading to significant tax benefits.

Here’s a breakdown of cost segregation in commercial property investment:

What is cost segregation?

  • Cost segregation is a tax planning technique that involves separating the costs of acquiring or constructing a commercial property into two categories: real property and personal property.
  • Real property, such as the building’s foundation, structure, and exterior walls, depreciates over a long period (39 years).
  • Personal property, including electrical systems, plumbing, HVAC systems, and appliances, depreciates at a faster rate (5, 7, or 15 years).

Benefits of cost segregation:

  • Increased depreciation deductions: By classifying more property as personal property, investors can accelerate their depreciation deductions and reduce their taxable income.
  • Improved cash flow: The higher depreciation deductions translate to lower taxable income, leading to more cash flow for reinvestment or other financial goals.
  • Enhanced property value: A well-documented cost segregation study can increase the property’s value by demonstrating its depreciable components and potential tax benefits.

How does cost segregation work?

  • A qualified engineer conducts a detailed analysis of the building and its components.
  • The engineer identifies and classifies each component as real property or personal property based on IRS guidelines.
  • A cost segregation report is prepared, documenting the findings and supporting the classification of assets.
  • The report is used by the property owner’s accountant to adjust their depreciation schedule and claim accelerated deductions.

Who can benefit from cost segregation?

  • Commercial property owners: This includes owners of office buildings, retail spaces, industrial facilities, and other income-producing properties.
  • Investors in real estate partnerships and trusts: They can benefit from the increased depreciation deductions at the entity level.
  • Property developers and construction companies: They can identify and classify assets early in the construction process to maximize the benefits.

Things to consider:

  • Cost segregation can be expensive: Hiring a qualified engineer and preparing a report can cost several thousand dollars.
  • It’s not a one-time exercise: The depreciation schedule should be adjusted annually based on the remaining useful life of the assets.
  • Seek professional advice: It’s crucial to consult with a tax advisor and a qualified engineer to determine if cost segregation is right for your specific situation.


Cost segregation can be a valuable tool for commercial property investors to save taxes, improve cash flow, and enhance their property’s value. However, it’s important to carefully consider the costs and benefits and seek professional advice before proceeding.

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