9 Common Landlord Tax Deductions [2020 Update]

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by Team Stessa, posted in Guides, Legal & Taxes

Familiarize yourself with these top landlord tax deductions that can help reduce your tax burden to the IRS.

1. Depreciation

Depreciation is one of the biggest and most important deductions for rental property owners because it reduces taxable income without impacting actual cash flow for your real estate. 

Since land cannot be depreciated, the preferred strategy is to allocate as much of the property’s purchase price to the building as possible to maximize your depreciation expense.

You can often also use cost segregation studies and 100% bonus depreciation to greatly increase your depreciation deduction. And if you qualify as a real estate professional for tax purposes, you can even use these passive losses to offset ordinary income from other sources.

2. Transportation

It’s common for landlords to travel to rental properties located within driving distance. You might also travel to the bank, the hardware store, or to meet with your broker, your attorney, and other key partners and suppliers. 

If you have an official home office and plan to take a tax deduction for local transportation, it’s important to keep an IRS-compliant log or use software like MileIQ and Stessa to properly track all miles driven for business purposes. The standard mileage rate is and $0.58/mile for 2019 and 2020.

3. Repairs and Maintenance

When you incur repair and maintenance or renovation expenses, you’ll want to classify as much as possible as standard repairs and maintenance to deduct them in the year incurred. More significant projects that qualify as capital improvements are depreciated over several years, which reduces the value of your current year deduction.

The best practice here is to have all of your renovation, repair, and maintenance invoices and receipts itemized by vendor. That way you or your CPA can easily determine whether or not each line item can be:

  • Deducted as a repair or maintenance expense,
  • Deducted under one of three safe harbors available to landlords,
  • Deducted via 100% bonus depreciation,
  • Or must be capitalized and depreciated

4. Employees and Independent Contractors

Money paid to W-2 employees and independent contractors to help run your rental property business are fully tax deductible on Schedule E of your tax return.

You’re required to send and file 1099s for any independent contractor you pay more than $600 during the calendar year if:

  • you’re a real estate professional for tax purposes, 
  • you provide substantial services to your short-term guests, 
  • you’re considering the 20% QBI pass-through deduction (199A) 

5. Professional Fees

Professional fees including legal, accounting, property management fees and business expenses related to your rental properties are fully deductible and reported directly on IRS Form Schedule E of your tax return.

6. Interest

Interest on loans used to fund your rental property business including mortgage interest, interest from a home equity lines of credit (HELOC) used within your rental business, and any other interest is fully deductible on Schedule E of your tax return.

This is an important distinction for pure rental properties because interest is only deductible on up to $750,000 of principal for primary and secondary residences. 

7. Taxes and Insurance 

All taxes, with the exception of income taxes, incurred as a result of owning a rental property are deductible on Schedule E. These typically include property taxes, school district taxes, and special easements or land taxes. 

Unlike your primary residence, there is no cap on the amount of property tax expense that can be deducted on properties held for investment purposes. 

Insurance including homeowners, hazard, liability, and flood insurance are fully deductible on Schedule E of your tax return.

8. Education

Education expenses are tax deductible when incurred for the purpose of maintaining or improving the skills needed in your rental property business. 

These expenses are only deductible when incurred after you start your rental property business. For example, you can deduct the amount spent to attend a property management training program, and related travel costs, only if you already have an existing rental property business. If you have yet to purchase and place your first rental property in service, then these training expenses are not deductible. 

Notably, training costs for courses to start a new business such as a “fix and flip” business are generally not deductible since it’s considered a new skill set and does not maintain or improve the skills used in your existing rental property business.

9. Misc. Expenses

Expenses such as HOA fees, bank fees, subscriptions, meals (50%), and other miscellaneous expenses related to your rental business are also deductible on IRS Form Schedule E.

Bonus Landlord Deductions for 2019

These deductions are not as common, but they’re becoming more popular among rental property owners. 

1031 Exchanges

1031 Exchanges allow you to defer both the capital gains tax and depreciation recapture from the sale of a property and invest the proceeds into another “like-kind” property, often called “trading up.”

While you ultimately have to pay tax at some point down the line, with the notable exception of inheritance, this allows you to use the entire proceeds to purchase a new property. You can thereby increase the size of your portfolio at a faster pace than would otherwise be possible if you were paying capital gains taxes upon each sale. 

1031 exchanges have a very strict timeline that needs to be followed and generally require the assistance of a qualified intermediary (QI). 

Opportunity Funds 

Introduced by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Opportunity Funds allow you to defer and reduce the capital gains tax from the sale of any capital asset. Unlike a 1031 exchange, you only have to redeploy the capital gain, not the entire sales proceeds. 

If you invest the capital gains in an Opportunity Fund within 180 days from sale and hold it for 5 years, you’ll reduce your original taxable capital gain tax liability by 10%. 

If you hold it for an additional 2 years, the original gain liability is reduced by another 5%.

If you then hold your investment for another 3 years, the new capital gain from the Opportunity Fund itself becomes fully tax exempt.

Note: Opportunity Fund investments made after December 31st, 2019 are not eligible for the full 15% reduction because it is impossible to hold for a full 7 years before 2026.

Check out more topics on rental property tax deductions: 

 

While reasonable efforts were taken to furnish accurate and up-to-date information, we do not warrant that the information contained in and made available through this guide is 100% accurate, complete, and error-free. We assume no liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in this guide.