For some odd reason, this tax season I've run across a number of tax returns which fail to calculate depreciation (and it's only February!).
My suspicion is that the prior preparer (not in my office) thought that they'd be clever and not claim depreciation, knowing that it's recaptured when the property is sold. You can't recapture what you haven't taken, right?
The IRS has a principle called 'allowed or allowable'. Here's their take on it:
"You must reduce the basis of property by the depreciation allowed or allowable, whichever is greater. Depreciation allowed is depreciation which you actually deducted (from which you received a tax benefit). Depreciation allowable is depreciation you are entitled to deduct.
If you do not claim depreciation you are entitled to deduct, you must still reduce the basis of the property by the full amount of depreciation allowable.
If you deduct more depreciation than you should, you must reduce your basis by any amount deducted from which you received a tax benefit (the depreciation allowed)."
In short, you're paying tax on the depreciation recapture, whether or not you actually claimed it (and if you claim too much, on the excess, too). So those people who think they're being clever are in for a rude awakening when they sell the property. Sadly, because of depreciation, it is possible to sell a property for less than what you paid for it and still have a gain! Not good news for landlords.