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Rental Accounting

6 Tax Benefits of Investing in Rental Properties

Real estate is one of the best ways to build wealth. It allows you to generate recurring income whilst increasing equity in an appreciating asset. On top of this, there are numerous tax benefits to investing in rental properties, more so in fact than any other income-producing assets.

The US tax code is surprisingly friendly to real estate investors, with several legislations specifically designed to help investors minimize their taxes and streamline operations. In this article, we take a closer look at 6 of the key tax benefits of investing in real estate.

Key takeaways

  • As a landlord, you can deduct operating and landlord expenses against your income to heavily mitigate your end-of-year tax bills.
  • Using a 1031 exchange, you can indefinitely defer capital gains tax to reinvest funds and scale your portfolio.
  • Depreciation is a sizable deduction allowed to landlords that can significantly reduce taxes.

Tax Benefits of Being a Landlord

1. Deduct Operating Expenses

The operating expenses incurred during the normal management and maintenance of your rental properties are almost all tax-deductible. As the IRS explains, these expenses must be ordinary and necessary. This means unrelated expenses or expenses that improve the property or business may not be immediately deductible.

A few key deductible le expenses include:

  • Advertising costs
  • Leasing commissions
  • Property management fees
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Supplies
  • Landscaping
  • Pest control
  • Property taxes
  • Homeowner and landlord liability insurance
  • Utilities paid directly by the landlord
  • Professional service fees, such as an accountant or real estate attorney

Find out more about deductible expenses and how to track them.

2. Deduct Owner Expenses

Owner expenses differ from operating expenses in that they aren’t necessarily related to the property itself, rather they are additional expenses related to the improvement, management, and growth of your rental business. For example, these include

Education

Expenses related to educational services, such as real estate magazines, courses, and real estate books can normally be deducted from rental property income.

Travel

As a rental owner, you will likely often find yourself driving between rentals. As such you’ll probably be familiar with the importance of understanding the standard mileage deduction rate (58.5 cents per mile for 2022) and how to track your mileage (pro tip: use Landlord Studio to keep an accurate travel log). However, if you own rentals out of state you may even find yourself flying to and staying in these locations.

Travel undertaken for these purposes is deductible if it meets the following criteria described in IRS Publication 463:

  • Travel must be mainly for business and have a clear business purpose
  • The majority of the time must be spent on business activities and not leisure activities
  • Travel expenses must be ordinary and necessary for the real estate business but not be overdone, such as staying a reasonably-priced hotel versus a five-star resort

Home office

Rental property owners are also often eligible for the home office deduction if they use a portion of their residence as an office. It is important to note this space must be used exclusively and on a regular basis for business purposes.

The IRS has a simplified option for home office deduction that allows taxpayers to claim a standard deduction of $5 per square foot, up to a maximum of 300 square feet.

3. Deduct Loan Interest

As a landlord, one key deductible expense is the interest on your loans. By taking advantage of these real estate tax benefits, investors can reduce their tax bill and claim back all the interest paid on finance loans such as mortgages and any interest on loans for expenditures or on credit cards.

4. Take Advantage of the Depreciation Deduction

Depreciation is the process of deducting the value of the asset and any improvements against your taxes. Depreciation of a rental property is spread out over what is deemed its useful lifetime by the IRS. For residential property, this is 27.5 years, and for commercial property is 39.5 years.

The IRS has very specific rules regarding depreciation and depreciation recapture. If you own rental properties, it’s important to be familiar with these rules to ensure that you can take full advantage of them while staying within guidelines.

This expense is to counter the wear and tear of the property. It’s important to note that the land itself doesn’t depreciate only the building.

In addition to the property, appliances, furnishings, and improvements may also be depreciated. Calculating your annual depreciation can quickly become complicated so it’s advisable to discuss this with your accountant to ensure you claim the maximum amount allowed.

5. Deferring Capital Gains Tax

When investors sell a rental property, they are liable to pay long-term capital gains tax of 0 percent, 15 percent, or 20 percent on any profit from the sale. This means, should you purchase a property for $200,000, and then sell for $300,000 ten years later you would be required to pay capital gains tax of up to $20,000.

Additionally, the depreciation expense is recaptured upon the sale. To work out the depreciation recapture amount, the total depreciated amount is treated as gains and taxed as ordinary income up to a maximum rate of 25 percent (depending on the investor’s federal income tax bracket).

However, using a 1031 exchange real estate investors can defer the payment of capital gains tax on the sale of a property.

With a 1031 exchange, the investor doesn’t extract the fund but puts it back to work by investing in another rental property. The rules and restrictions relating to a Section 1031 exchange are complex, so an investor will want to consult a licensed professional to better understand how one is carried out.

There are three main 1031 exchange rules to follow:

  • Replacement property must be of equal or greater value to the one being sold
  • Replacement property must be identified within 45 days
  • Replacement property must be purchased within 180 days

Rental property owners can conduct 1031 exchanges indefinitely to defer paying capital gains and depreciation recapture taxes. If an investor decides to sell the properties, any taxes owed will need to be paid at this time.

6. The Pass-Through Tax Deduction

The pass-through tax deduction allows qualifying real estate investors to deduct up to 20% of their net business income from their income taxes (with certain restrictions). To qualify, investors must own a pass-through business and have a qualifying business income (QBI).

A pass-through business includes LLCs (limited liability companies), S corporations, partnerships, and even sole proprietorships. QBI includes the net income or profit from a qualifying business but does not include short or long-term capital gains, dividends or interest income.

schedule e

How Is Rental Income Taxed?

Rental income is reported on form 1040, Schedule E. This lists the revenue, expenses, and depreciation for each of your rental properties. This income is taxed according to your ordinary federal income tax bracket.

Generally speaking, income from a rental property is not classified as earned income, which means that an investor does not need to pay FICA or payroll tax.

Tracking Income and Expenses to Maximize Your Deductibles

In order to file an accurate end-of-year tax return and make the most of the tax benefits of investing real estate, you will need to keep excellent records of all your income and expenses throughout the year. The best way to track and record your income and expenses is with purpose built software such as Landlord Studio.

With Landlord Studio you can:

If your tax return is selected for an audit, you will need to provide all the required supporting documents. Having a system where you can keep everything well organized and easily accessible will help you avoid any potential additional taxes, penalties, and interest.

Additionally, Landlord Studio pairs these essential financial tracking features with a suite of property management tools designed to save you time and money, such as:

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Final Words

The variety of tax benefits that come with investing in real estate make it a wise investment choice. However, landlords and investors have to stay on top of their accounts throughout the tax year. Not doing so can lead to costly accounting errors, missed deductions, and potentially even an audit.

The best way to make the most of the tax benefits of real estate investing is to use a tool like Landlord Studio. Automate rent collection and income tracking and streamline your expense accounting to save time, reduce errors and keep more detailed, organized accounts with all of the required supporting documents at your fingertips.

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Ben Luxon

Ben is the editor and lead writer for Landlord Studio. He has worked with real estate professionals all over the world and written educational articles on tech, real estate, and financial growth for sites such as Forbes, TechBullion, and Business Magazine.

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