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How To Reduce Taxes On Rental Income

Let’s imagine our good friend Stan, a savvy business owner with a knack for quirky adventures. Stan, like many of you, ventured into the world of rental properties. He quickly found out that while the income was nice, the tax part… not so much. It’s like finding out your chocolate cake has calories—necessary but a bummer! The fact is that owning a rental property can be a great source of regular income and long-term capital growth. Unfortunately, the tax implications can be confusing and daunting. On the bright side, today is all about rental income taxes and exploring how you can reduce them effectively (and legally!).


What’s the Deal with Rental Income and Taxes?


Rental income is pretty straightforward—it’s the money you earn from renting out a property you own. However, the tax part can feel like solving a Rubik’s cube blindfolded. In the US, rental income is taxed as ordinary income. That means it’s added to your other earnings and taxed according to your total income tax bracket.


How Much Tax Do You Pay on Rental Income in the US?


The amount of tax you pay on rental income depends on your total income and tax bracket. Keep in mind that the higher your total income, the higher your bracket, and the more you pay.


Is Rent Tax Deductible?


The answer is no. However, you can deduct costs related to managing the rental property, including:


  • Repairs and Maintenance: Costs incurred to keep the property in good condition.
  • Property Management Fees: Fees paid to property managers.
  • Travel Expenses: Expenses incurred traveling to and from the property.
  • Mortgage Interest and Property Taxes: Significant deductions that can reduce taxable rental income.


Tax Treatment Based on Your Involvement


Your role as either a passive investor or a real estate professional significantly affects your tax situation. Sounds confusing? Here’s the explanation: 


Passive Investors: Generally, rental activities are considered passive, meaning losses can only offset passive income (like other rental profits). If your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) is $100,000 or less, you can deduct up to $25,000 of passive losses each year. However, this benefit phases out between $100,000 and $150,000 MAGI, disappearing entirely beyond that.


Real Estate Professionals: If you qualify as a professional (spending more than 750 hours per year and more than half your working hours in real estate activities), your rental income is treated as non-passive (active). This allows you to use any losses from rental activities to offset other types of income, such as wages or dividends, which can be a substantial tax advantage.


How Can You Reduce Rental Income Tax in the U.S.?


  1. Depreciation: The IRS allows you to deduct the cost of the building over its useful life, typically 27.5 years. This spreads out the deduction, reducing taxable income each year.


  1. Expense Deductions: Keep receipts for any costs associated with the property. This includes repairs, advertising, utilities, and legal fees, all of which can be deducted.


  1. Passive Loss Rules: If your expenses exceed rental income, you may deduct losses from other passive income or carry them over to the next year.


  1. Refinance Your Mortgage: By securing a lower interest rate, you reduce your monthly payment and increase the deductible interest expense.


  1. 1031 Exchange: This allows you to defer capital gains tax by reinvesting proceeds from a property sale into another property. This can also defer depreciation recapture taxes.


Rental Property Tax Deductions


Let’s dive deeper into the various deductions available to rental property owners:


Mortgage Interest: Interest on up to $750,000 of mortgage debt is deductible. For investment properties, mortgage interest can be deducted as a business expense.


Repairs vs. Improvements: Repairs that keep the property in good condition are deductible immediately, while improvements that add value must be depreciated over time.


Travel Expenses: Money spent traveling to collect rent or manage the property is deductible, though travel for improvements must be recovered as part of the improvement cost.


Other Deductions: This includes advertising, employees and contractors, home office expenses, insurance premiums, and utilities.


What Isn’t Deductible?


The following costs can’t be deducted:


Personal Expenses: Expenses not associated with the rental property, like food or personal travel.

Fines and Penalties: Costs incurred from breaking laws or regulations, such as HOA guidelines.

Travel to the Property: This is considered a personal expense unless directly related to managing the property.


The Bottom Line 


Reducing taxes on rental income involves understanding and applying various strategies, from deducting expenses to leveraging tax laws. By staying informed and keeping good records, you can optimize your rental property’s profitability and manage your tax liability more effectively. If needed, consult the qualified tax strategists at Tax Goddess to maximize deductions and ensure compliance. This way, you can focus more on growing your rental business and less on the tax bill that comes with it.


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