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Publication 535


You can figure timber depletion only by the cost method. Percentage depletion does not apply to timber. Base your depletion on your cost or other basis in the timber. Your cost does not include the cost of land or any amounts recoverable through depreciation.
Depletion takes place when you cut standing timber. You can figure your depletion deduction when the quantity of cut timber is first accurately measured in the process of exploitation.

Figuring cost depletion.(p37)

To figure your cost depletion allowance, you multiply the number of timber units cut by your depletion unit.
Timber units.(p37)
When you acquire timber property, you must make an estimate of the quantity of marketable timber that exists on the property. You measure the timber using board feet, log scale, cords, or other units. If you later determine that you have more or less units of timber, you must adjust the original estimate.
The term "timber property" means your economic interest in standing timber in each tract or block representing a separate timber account.
Depletion unit.(p37)
You figure your depletion unit each year by taking the following steps.
  1. Determine your cost or adjusted basis of the timber on hand at the beginning of the year. Adjusted basis is defined under Cost Depletion in the discussion on Mineral Property.
  2. Add to the amount determined in (1) the cost of any timber units acquired during the year and any additions to capital.
  3. Figure the number of timber units to take into account by adding the number of timber units acquired during the year to the number of timber units on hand in the account at the beginning of the year and then adding (or subtracting) any correction to the estimate of the number of timber units remaining in the account.
  4. Divide the result of (2) by the result of (3). This is your depletion unit.


You bought a timber tract for $160,000 and the land was worth as much as the timber. Your basis for the timber is $80,000. Based on an estimated one million board feet (1,000 MBF) of standing timber, you figure your depletion unit to be $80 per MBF ($80,000 ÷ 1,000). If you cut 500 MBF of timber, your depletion allowance would be $40,000 (500 MBF × $80).

When to claim depletion.(p37)

Claim your depletion allowance as a deduction in the year of sale or other disposition of the products cut from the timber, unless you choose to treat the cutting of timber as a sale or exchange (explained below). Include allowable depletion for timber products not sold during the tax year the timber is cut as a cost item in the closing inventory of timber products for the year. The inventory is your basis for determining gain or loss in the tax year you sell the timber products.


The facts are the same as in the previous example except that you sold only half of the timber products in the cutting year. You would deduct $20,000 of the $40,000 depletion that year. You would add the remaining $20,000 depletion to your closing inventory of timber products.

Electing to treat the cutting of timber as a sale or exchange.(p37)

You can elect, under certain circumstances, to treat the cutting of timber held for more than 1 year as a sale or exchange. You must make the election on your income tax return for the tax year to which it applies. If you make this election, subtract the adjusted basis for depletion from the fair market value of the timber on the first day of the tax year in which you cut it to figure the gain or loss on the cutting. You generally report the gain as long-term capital gain. The fair market value then becomes your basis for figuring your ordinary gain or loss on the sale or other disposition of the products cut from the timber. For more information, see Timber in chapter 2 of Publication 544, Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets.
You may revoke an election to treat the cutting of timber as a sale or exchange without IRS's consent. The prior election (and revocation) is disregarded for purposes of making a subsequent election. See Form T (Timber), Forest Activities Schedule, for more information.

Form T.(p38)

Complete and attach Form T (Timber) to your income tax return if you claim a deduction for timber depletion, choose to treat the cutting of timber as a sale or exchange, or make an outright sale of timber.