Beyond Cost Segregation: When It Falls Short (and What to Do Instead)

You've likely heard about cost segregation, a potential strategy to reduce your tax burden as a property owner. But before you take the plunge, it's important to ask yourself: is it always the best approach for your specific property type and situation?

Sometimes, alternative tax strategies could significantly increase your deductions and improve your cash flow. Let's explore when cost segregation might not be ideal and consider other options that can maximize your tax savings.

cost segregation alternatives

Instances Where Cost Segregation Might Not Be Ideal

Small Property Values

A cost segregation study requires an investment. Be sure to weigh the cost of the study against the potential tax savings it could generate. For smaller properties, particularly those under $500,000, the return on investment for the study might not be significant.

Properties Nearing the End of Useful Life

Cost segregation offers the greatest benefits by accelerating depreciation in the early years of property ownership. If a property is nearing the end of its useful life, with less remaining value to depreciate, the impact of cost segregation decreases.

Short-Term Holding Periods

If you plan to sell a property in the near future (within a decade or less), you should consider the possibility of depreciation recapture. While accelerated depreciation offers immediate benefits, it may be partially “recaptured” as taxes when the property is sold, reducing the overall advantage.

Alternative Tax Planning Strategies

Even when cost segregation isn't the best option, there are a variety of other tax-smart strategies to consider for your real estate holdings. Here are a few approaches:

1031 Exchanges

A 1031 exchange allows you to defer capital gains taxes when you sell an investment property. By reinvesting the proceeds from the sale into a like-kind property within a specific timeframe, you can essentially postpone the tax liability. 1031 exchanges can be done for properties that have undergone cost segregation (and in fact, they often are), but they can also be a viable solution for properties where cost segregation isn’t the strongest tax strategy.

Opportunity Zone Investments

Investing in designated Opportunity Zones offers potential tax advantages, including the deferral of capital gains taxes, reduction of those taxes over time and even the potential for complete elimination of capital gains taxes if the investment is held long-term.

Bonus Depreciation

Bonus depreciation is a special tax provision that allows you to deduct a large portion of the cost of qualifying assets with class lives of 20 years or less in the first year you place them in service. As of the current tax year (2024), bonus depreciation is set at 60%. This means you can deduct 60% of the asset's cost immediately. Bonus depreciation can offer a powerful and quick tax benefit, especially for those with recent significant investments in qualifying assets.

Strategic Repairs and Maintenance

Carefully timing and classifying expenditures as either repairs or improvements can impact your deductions. While sometimes less dramatic than cost segregation, strategic repairs and maintenance planning can provide more immediate tax benefits without the need for an in-depth study.

The Importance of Expert Consultation

Understanding property depreciation and tax optimization can be challenging. Partnering with a skilled tax advisor is crucial for maximizing your benefits and reducing potential liabilities. Consider these qualities when choosing a professional:

  • Deep expertise: Seek an advisor who has in-depth knowledge of property depreciation, cost segregation and alternative tax strategies specifically aligned with your financial goals.
  • Engineering and tax knowledge: A firm like Engineered Tax Services (ETS) blends engineering analysis with comprehensive tax knowledge. This approach is vital in uncovering all potential deductions and credits.
  • Proven track record: Look for advisors with experience in your specific type of property (commercial, industrial, residential, etc.). They should have a clear understanding of how various tax incentives can be applied to your particular situation.


While cost segregation is a valuable strategy, it may not be the best fit for every situation. Understanding its limitations and exploring other tax strategies is important for maximizing the benefits of property ownership. Don't miss out on potential savings—be proactive with your tax planning.

When you partner with ETS, you gain access to the full range of deductions and incentives available. Our team of engineers and tax experts is dedicated to developing personalized tax optimization plans that align with your unique property portfolio and financial goals.

Contact us today to learn how we can help you achieve significant tax savings, with or without cost segregation.

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