Every year, millions of landlords pay more taxes on their rental income than they have to. Why? Because they fail to take advantage of all the tax deductions available for owners of rental property. Rental real estate provides more tax benefits than almost any other investment.
Often, these benefits make the difference between losing money and earning a profit on a rental property. Here are the top ten tax deductions for owners of small residential rental property.
Interest is often a landlord's single biggest deductible expense. Common examples of interest that landlords can deduct include mortgage interest payments on loans used to acquire or improve rental property and interest on credit cards for goods or services used in a rental activity. Starting in 2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limited the interest deduction for landlords who earn more than $25 million from their rentals. However, such landlords can avoid this limit by agreeing to depreciate their rental property over 30 years instead of 27.5 years.
Click the link to find more detailed information about deducting interests on rental property.
The actual cost of a house, apartment building, or other rental property is not fully deductible in the year in which you pay for it. Instead, landlords get back the cost of real estate through depreciation. This involves deducting a portion of the cost of the property over several years.
The cost of repairs to rental property (provided the repairs are ordinary, necessary, and reasonable in amount) are fully deductible in the year in which they are incurred. Good examples of deductible repairs include repainting, fixing gutters or floors, fixing leaks, plastering, and replacing broken windows.
Read Tips for Maximizing Repair Deductions to ensure your expense will constitute a repair, not an improvement.
The cost of personal property used in a rental activity can usually be deducted in one year using the de minimis safe harbor deduction (for property costing up to $2,000) or 100% bonus depreciation which will remain in effect for 2018 through 2022. Such personal property includes appliances or furniture in rental units and gardening equipment. For details, see Every Landlord's Tax Deduction Guide, by Stephen Fishman (Nolo).
Starting in 2018, most landlords will qualify for a new pass-through tax deduction established by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This deduction is a special income tax deduction, not a rental deduction. Depending on their income, landlords may be able to deduct (1) up to 20% of their net rental income, or (2) 2.5% of the initial cost of their rental property plus 25% of the amount they pay their employees. This deduction is scheduled to expire after 2025. For details, see Every Landlord's Tax Deduction Guide, by Stephen Fishman (Nolo).
Landlords are entitled to a tax deduction for most of the driving they do for their rental activity. For example, when you drive to your rental building to deal with a tenant complaint or go to the hardware store to purchase a part for a repair, you can deduct your travel expenses. However, you can't deduct the cost of travel you do to improve your rental property--these expenses must be added to the property's tax basis and depreciated over many years.
If you drive a car, an SUV, a van, a pickup, or a panel truck for your rental activity (as most landlords do), you have two options for deducting your vehicle expenses. You can:
To qualify for the standard mileage rate, you must use it in the first year you use a car for your rental activity.
Learn more about deducting landlord car expenses.
If you travel overnight for your rental activity, you can deduct your airfare, hotel bills, meals, and other expenses. If you plan your trip carefully, you can even mix landlord business with pleasure and still take a deduction.
However, IRS auditors closely scrutinize deductions for overnight travel -- and many taxpayers get caught claiming these deductions without proper records to back them up. To stay within the law (and avoid unwanted attention from the IRS), you need to properly document your long distance travel expenses.
Provided they meet certain minimal requirements, landlords may deduct their home office expenses from their taxable income. This deduction applies not only to space devoted to office work, but also to a workshop or any other home workspace you use for your rental business. This is true whether you own your home or apartment or are a renter.
Whenever you hire anyone to perform services for your rental activity, you can deduct their wages as a rental business expense. This is so whether the worker is an employee (for example, a resident manager) or an independent contractor (for example, a repair person).
Find out tax rules that apply to landlords who hire independent contractors to help them with their rental business, see Hiring Independent Contractors for Your Rental Activity.
You can deduct the premiums you pay for almost any insurance for your rental activity. This includes fire, theft, and flood insurance for rental property, as well as landlord liability insurance. And if you have employees, you can deduct the cost of their health and workers' compensation insurance.
Finally, you can deduct fees that you pay to attorneys, accountants, property management companies, real estate investment advisors, and other professionals. You can deduct these fees as operating expenses as long as the fees are paid for work related to your rental activity.
Did you know that:
If you didn't know one or more of these facts, you could be paying far more tax than you need to.