From finding tenants to fixing faucets, renting out a home can be a lot of work. You’ll appreciate collecting the rent checks and taking advantage of tax deductions.
In fact, you can use many rental property expenses to offset your rental income. IRS Publication 527 has all the details.
Writing Off Rental Home Expenses
Many rental home expenses are tax deductible. Save receipts and any other documentation, and take the deductions on Schedule E. Figure you’ll spend four hours a week, on average, maintaining a rental property, including record keeping.
In general, you can claim the deductions for the year in which you pay for these common rental property expenses:
- Cleaning and maintenance
- Commissions paid to rental agents
- Home owner association/condo dues
- Insurance premiums
- Legal fees
- Mortgage interest
Less obvious deductions include expenses to obtain a mortgage, and fees charged by an accountant to prepare your Schedule E. And don’t forget that a rental home can even be a houseboat or trailer, as long as there are sleeping, cooking, and bathroom facilities. Moreover, the location of the rental home doesn’t matter. It could even be outside the United States.
Limits on Travel Expenses
You can deduct expenses related to traveling locally to a rental home for such activities as showing it, collecting rent, or doing maintenance. If you use your own car, you can claim the standard mileage rate, plus tolls and parking.
Traveling outside your local area to a rental home is another matter. You can write off the expenses if the purpose of the trip is to collect rent or, in the words of the IRS, “manage, conserve, or maintain” the property. If you mix business with pleasure during the trip, you can only deduct the portion of expenses that directly relates to rental activities.
Repairs vs. Improvements
Another area that requires rental homeowners to tread carefully is repairs vs. improvements. The tax code lets you write off repairs—any fixes that keep your property in working condition—immediately as you would other expenses. The costs of improvements that add value to a rental property or extend its life must instead be depreciated over several years.
Think of it this way: Simply replacing a broken window pane counts as a repair, but replacing all of the windows in your rental home counts as an improvement. Patching a roof leak is a repair; re-shingling the entire roof is an improvement. You get the picture.