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Tax Savings from Investing in Oil and Gas Wells

Investing in oil and gas wells might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of diversifying your portfolio. But this sector offers intriguing tax benefits that many investors may find appealing. In this article, we’ll dive into the world of oil and gas well investments, exploring how they work, the tax benefits, and the associated risks and benefits.

What Are Oil and Gas Well Investments?

Oil and gas well investments are a way for investors to put their money into the production and development of fossil fuel wells. This isn’t about buying stock in big oil companies like Exxon or Shell. It’s about funding the extraction of these resources right from the ground.

Investors can invest directly in a drilling operation or through partnerships that deal with the development and operation of wells. Either way, there are two goals: (1) to take advantage of the unique tax benefits oil wells offer (which investing in public oil company stock doesn’t offer); and (2) to generate income from the sale of the resulting fuel.

How It Works

Investing in oil and gas wells is a unique venture. Typically, investors can join either as working interests (direct ownership) or through limited partnerships.

  1. Working Interests: Here, you invest directly in the drilling, maintenance, and operation of a well. This gives you a say in how things are done, but it also exposes you to more risk and responsibilities.
  2. Limited Partnerships: If you prefer a hands-off approach, you can invest through a limited partnership. You’ll still profit from the well, but your liability is limited to your investment amount. Critically, your income from these investments is considered passive, which means it’s easier to write-off.

Either way, profits are generated from the sale of oil and gas extracted from the wells.

Tax Benefits

The oil and gas industry receives significant tax incentives. Some of these benefits include:

  • Intangible Drilling Costs (IDCs): Most of the expenses related to drilling are fully deductible in the year they occur. Typically, these expenses are 70%-90% of your investment and can be deducted in either the first or second of your investment, which can greatly reduce taxable income. If you have a 50% marginal tax rate, between federal and state taxes you will recoup 35%-45% of your investment in the first two years from tax savings.
  • Percentage Depletion: This allows for 15% of the well’s gross income to be free from taxes, further enhancing the attractiveness of this investment.
  • Lease Costs: Various lease costs, including labor and materials, can also be deducted.

These incentives are meant to encourage investments in the sector, and they can be highly appealing to certain investors. (Source: IRS Publication 535).

Risks and Benefits


Oil and gas well investments are not without risk:

  • The market is highly volatile, and the price of oil and gas can fluctuate significantly, affecting your income share.
  • Drilling may not lead to commercially viable quantities of oil or gas.
  • Operating costs might exceed expectations or revenue from low oil prices might reduce income and revenue.

These factors could lead to a loss on your investment.


Despite the risks, there are some compelling benefits:

  • Potential for High Returns: When oil prices are high and wells are productive, the financial gains can be substantial and considered passive income which has its own tax planning advantages.
  • Diversification: Investing in oil and gas can diversify your portfolio.
  • Tax Savings: You can potentially write off 35%-45% of your investment early on


Investing in oil and gas wells is an intriguing, yet complex opportunity. The potential for profits and significant tax benefits make it an attractive option for some investors, but it’s not without its risks. Like a rare and precious resource deep beneath the earth, success in oil and gas well investments requires careful exploration, and the right tools.