Can I Depreciate Computer Software?

Tyler Yates

Depreciating computer software can be a confusing and complex topic for many businesses. The question of whether or not software can be depreciated is a common one, and the answer is not always straightforward. In this article, we will explore the rules surrounding software depreciation and help you determine whether or not you can depreciate your business’s computer software.

What is Depreciation?

Before we dive into the specifics of software depreciation, let’s first define what depreciation means. Depreciation is the process by which a business deducts the cost of an asset over its useful life. This deduction helps to spread out the cost of the asset over several years rather than taking the entire expense in one year.

What is Software?

Software refers to any program or set of instructions that tell a computer what to do. Examples of software include operating systems, productivity tools, and specialized applications.

Can You Depreciate Software?

The short answer is yes; you can depreciate computer software in most cases. However, there are some specific rules that must be followed.

According to IRS regulations, computer software must meet certain criteria to be eligible for depreciation. The rules state that for computer software to be depreciable, it must meet all three of the following requirements:

  • The software must be acquired by purchase or created by the taxpayer.
  • The software must have a determinable useful life.
  • The taxpayer must have exclusive rights to use the software.

If all three of these requirements are met, then your business may begin depreciating the cost of your computer software.

Useful Life

One important factor to keep in mind when considering depreciation is an asset’s useful life. The IRS has determined specific guidelines for determining an asset’s useful life, and this can vary depending on the type of asset.

For computer software, the IRS generally considers a useful life of three years. This means that a business can depreciate the cost of the software over a period of three years.

Depreciation Methods

There are two primary methods for depreciating computer software: straight-line depreciation and accelerated depreciation.

Straight-line depreciation involves spreading out the cost of an asset evenly over its useful life. For example, if your business purchased software for $3,000 and it has a useful life of three years, you would depreciate the cost by $1,000 per year.

Accelerated depreciation involves taking more significant deductions in earlier years and smaller deductions in later years. This method can be beneficial for businesses that want to take larger deductions upfront to offset taxes or expenses.


In conclusion, computer software is generally depreciable if it meets specific criteria outlined by the IRS. If your business has acquired or created software with a determinable useful life and exclusive rights to use it, then you may begin depreciating its cost over a period of time.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are specific guidelines for determining an asset’s useful life and choosing a depreciation method. Your business should consult with a tax professional to ensure that you are following all necessary rules and regulations when it comes to depreciating your computer software.