Depletion – TIMBER

Depletion is the using up of natural resources by mining, quarrying, drilling, or cutting. The depletion deduction allows an owner or operator to account for the reduction of a product’s reserves.

Who Can Claim Depletion?

If you have an economic interest in mineral property or standing timber (defined below), you can take a deduction for depletion. More than one person can have an economic interest in the same mineral deposit or timber.

You have an economic interest if both the following apply.

  • You have acquired by investment any interest in mineral deposits or standing timber.
  • You have a legal right to income from the extraction of the mineral or the cutting of the
    timber, to which you must look for a return of your capital investment.

A contractual relationship that allows you an economic or monetary advantage from products of the mineral deposit or standing timber is not, in itself, an economic interest. A production payment carved out of, or retained on the sale of, mineral property is not an economic interest.

Mineral property is each separate interest you own in each mineral deposit in each separate tract or parcel of land. You can treat two or more separate interests as one property or as separate properties.


Standing timber you held as investment property is a capital asset. Gain or loss from its sale is capital gain or loss reported on Form 8949 and Schedule D (Form 1040). If you held the timber primarily for sale to customers, it is not a capital asset. Gain or loss on its sale is ordinary business income or loss. It is reported on Schedule F, line 1 (if purchased timber) or line 2 (if raised timber).

Farmers who cut timber on their land and sell it as logs, firewood, or pulpwood usually have no
cost or other basis for that timber if no allocation was made at the time of acquisition. Amounts
realized from these sales, and the expenses incurred in cutting, hauling, etc., are ordinary farm
income and expenses reported on Schedule F.

Different rules apply if you owned the timber longer than 1 year and elect to treat timber cutting as a sale or exchange or you enter into a cutting contract, discussed below.

Timber considered cut. Timber is considered cut on the date when, in the ordinary course of business, the quantity of felled timber is first definitely determined. This is true whether the timber is cut under contract or whether you cut it yourself.

Christmas trees. Evergreen trees, such as Christmas trees, that are more than 6 years old when severed from their roots and sold for ornamental purposes are included in the term timber. They qualify for both.

Election to treat cutting as a sale or exchange. Under the general rule, the cutting of timber results in no gain or loss. It is not until a sale or exchange occurs that gain or loss is realized. But if you owned or had a contractual right to cut timber, you can elect to treat the cutting of timber as a section 1231 transaction in the year it is cut. Even though the cut timber is not actually sold or exchanged, you report your gain or loss on the cutting for the year the timber is cut. Any later sale results in ordinary business income or loss.

Qualified timber property. Qualified timber property is property that contains trees in significant commercial quantities. It can be a woodlot or other site that you own or lease. The property qualifies only if it meets all the following requirements.

  • It is located in the United States.
  • It is held for the growing and cutting of timber you will either use in, or sell for use in, the commercial production of timber products.
  • It consists of at least one acre planted with tree seedlings in the manner normally used in forestation or reforestation.

Qualified timber property does not include property on which you have planted shelter belts or ornamental trees, such as Christmas trees.

Amortization period. The 84-month amortization period starts on the first day of the first month of the second half of the tax year you incur the costs (July 1 for a calendar year taxpayer), regardless of the month you actually incur the costs. You can claim amortization deductions for no more than 6 months of the first and last (eighth) tax years of the period.

How to make the election. To elect to amortize qualifying reforestation costs, enter your deduction in Part VI of Form 4562. Attach a statement containing any required information.

Reforestation costs 

You can elect to currently deduct a limited amount of qualifying reforestation costs for each qualified timber property. You can elect to amortize over 84 months any amount not deducted. There is no annual limit on the amount you can elect to amortize. Reforestation costs are the direct costs of planting or seeding for forestation or reforestation.

Qualifying costs. Qualifying costs include only those costs you must otherwise capitalize and include in the adjusted basis of the property. They include costs for the following items.

  • Site preparation.
  • Seeds or seedlings.
  • Labor.
  • Tools.
  • Depreciation on equipment used in planting and seeding.

If the government reimburses you for reforestation costs under a cost-sharing program, you can amortize these costs only if you include the reimbursement in your income.