Unlock the 7 Major Tax Benefits of Owning Investment Property

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The Insider @ Houst
Last updated on
September 6, 2023

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Unlock the 7 Major Tax Benefits of Owning Investment Property

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Owning a rental property can be a smart investment if things go smoothly. But you should know that quite a few costs come with managing a rental property. When you're the landlord, it's your responsibility to handle these expenses, which could mean shelling out money for maintenance or repairs.

We know this can be pretty frustrating, but here's the thing: These costs don't have to be a total loss. Believe it or not, some tax perks can help balance out some expenses tied to running a rental property. These perks can work in your favour and help you make the most out of your profits. In this article, we’ll discuss the tax benefits of investment property in detail.

Table of Contents

1. Operating Expenses are Deductible

Rental property owners can lower their taxes by taking advantage of deductions. How does it work? Well, you can balance the income you get from renting with various costs related to running the property daily.

Here's the good news about the costs of taking care of and running a rental property: You can deduct them from your taxes! Here are a few examples:

Landlord Reviewing Rental Property Expenses

Advertising and Marketing Expenses

Getting new tenants for your rental property isn't cheap. You have to spread the word, and that costs money. If you've got a property manager, they might ask you to chip in for the marketing. This could cover things like putting the property online, using print ads, creating brochures, and even those classic 'For Rent' signs.

If you're taking charge of the marketing or if your agent is handling it, you may be able to save money on the listing commission. The money you spend on advertising can actually be a good thing come tax time. You can often subtract these advertising expenses from your rental income, all in the same year you shelled out the bucks.

Loan Interest and Bank Costs

When you're investing in property, it often involves some financing through loans. If you have a loan on your investment property that includes both the principal and the interest, there's some good news on the tax front.

You might be bummed that you can't deduct those principal payments – they're just the money you're putting toward owning the property. But here's the bright side: the interest part of your loan? Yep, you can usually deduct that from your taxes. It's considered an investment expense that can help lower your taxable income.

Now, here's a nifty trick. Some investors go for what's called an interest-only loan. With this type of loan, you can deduct the full interest amount for a while. It's like a deduction party before the loan switches to principal and interest payments.

So, whether you're rolling with a regular loan or opting for an interest-only one, the interesting part is your ticket to some tax relief. Remember, keep track of your loan statements and interest payments, they're your golden tickets when tax season rolls around.

Body Corporate Fees

If your property dances to the strata title beat, there's something you should know about those body corporate fees. They're not just a regular expense; they're something you can potentially deduct from your taxes.

See, these fees often cover a bunch of things like keeping the shared areas in check and tending to the garden. But that's not all; they can also include stuff like insurance to keep things secure and take care of any public liability matters.

So, if your property is strata-tastic, don't forget to give those body corporate fees a nod when tax time comes. They could end up being a silver lining that helps ease your tax burden a little bit. 

Insurance Costs

When it comes to your investment property, having insurance is like having a safety net. Now, the cool thing is that you might be able to catch a break on your taxes for these insurance expenses.

Whether it's covering the building itself, the contents inside, or even landlord-specific insurance, you can often claim these costs on your tax return. It's like getting a little nod from the taxman for protecting your property proactively.

Speaking of landlord insurance, it's a bit of a superhero policy. It usually swoops in to handle things like damage to your property caused by tenants or even the loss of rental income. So, not only do you have peace of mind, but you might also have a tax advantage.

Council Rates

Let's talk about the council rates you pay to keep your investment property in good standing. The good news is that they're not just a bill; they can be a ticket to deductions.

Here's the scoop: You can deduct your council rates in the year you paid them. But there's a little twist. You can only claim these deductions for the times your property was actually rented out.

Imagine your property was on rental duty for 219 days in a year. Well, you can do some math magic. You'd claim 60% of the council rates you shelled out that year. It's like giving you credit for the time your property was doing its rental thing.

So, think of it this way; those council rates you're paying aren't just for keeping things smooth with local authorities; they also play a role in your tax game plan. Just make sure to keep good records of rental periods and payments so you can ace your deductions when working on your taxes.

Property Management and Expert Fees

When you've got a fantastic real estate agent or property manager in your corner, your investment property journey becomes smoother. And guess what? The cherry on top is that the fees they charge can often play a tax-deductible role.

Think about it as a win-win. Financial advisors help maximise investment returns and may provide tax breaks. It's like a high-five from the tax world for being proactive about managing your property.

But the tax party doesn't stop there if you're calling in other experts – like a valuer to assess your property's value, a depreciation expert to work out that important deduction, or even professionals like accountants, landscape designers, or interior designers – their fees can also join the tax deduction club.

Depreciation

Let's dive into a tax trick that involves the gentle art of depreciation – a fancy way of saying things wear out over time. But here's the cool part: it's not just a reality; it's also a deduction.

You'll need a depreciation schedule to claim depreciation. Think of it like a roadmap that helps you navigate your deductions. Sure, it might cost you around $600-$700 to prepare this schedule, but the good news is that this cost is also tax-deductible. So, it's like a deduction for getting deductions lined up – pretty neat, right?

Now, the tax folks have a fun definition of a depreciating asset. Depreciating assets, such as timber flooring, carpets, expensive curtains, appliances, and furniture, lose value over time.

Claiming deductions for the decline in the value of assets is like getting a pat on the back for taking care of your property's wear and tear. So, embrace the world of depreciation – it's not just about things ageing; it's about potentially getting a little tax relief as they do. Just remember, the depreciation schedule is your guide, and those deductions are your reward for keeping your property in tip-top shape.

Negative Gearing

It's time for a savvy move in the investment world – negative gearing. It's like a secret strategy that Aussies have been using for ages to make their investment properties manageable and potentially profitable.

Simply put, it's when your property costs you more money than you make. Think of it like this: the bills and interest on your mortgage and other property-related costs end up being more than the income or rent you're pulling in.

You can turn a financial loss into a tax deduction. Yep, that's right. It's like a bit of a silver lining in your financial cloud.

Gardening Expenses

If you're investing in the upkeep of plants and structures, you're in for a treat. You can usually nab an immediate deduction for these expenses. But remember, if you're adding new plants that spruce up the place, those might not be immediately deductible. They're seen as improvements rather than just regular upkeep.

Land Tax

If your investment property is being rented out, you might just have a handy deduction on your hands. Land tax is often claimable, and in a cool twist, some state governments even offered discounts to landlords who stepped up to help tenants.

Utility Fees (Not Tenant-Paid)

Let's face it: electricity, gas, and water are essentials. If you're footing these bills during tenancies, you might be able to get some of that back through deductions. Normally, tenants cover these costs, but if you're in between tenants, these charges can still find their way into your deduction lineup.

Pest Patrol and Deductions

When it comes to dealing with pests, the silver lining is twofold. First, you're getting rid of unwanted critters. Second, you might get a tax deduction for the professional pest control costs. Whether you or your tenant paid for it, it's often deductible.

Repairs and Maintenance

Ah, the never-ending debate, repairs vs. improvements. Repairs? They're like fixing stuff that's worn out, a broken appliance or damage from a storm. These are often deductible. Improvements? They're like making things better than they were. Unfortunately, you can't always write these off immediately. They might, however, boost your property's value in the long run.

Legal Costs and Lease Document Preparation

Legal hiccups with tenants? Eviction woes? You might need legal help. And guess what? These costs could end up being tax deductions. But remember, these deductions are for sorting out tenant-related issues, not the legal fees from buying the property in the first place.

After claiming these deductions, you're giving yourself the chance to lower the income subject to taxation – a win-win situation!

2. Mortgage Interest is Deductible

If you've taken out a loan to buy a rental property, here's some good news: your mortgage interest is completely tax deductible. This means you can subtract this interest from your taxable income, which can add up and make a difference.

If you have a credit card balance, the interest you're paying can also be tax deductible. Similarly, if you're part of an LLC and borrowed money from a fellow member, the interest you're paying them can also be considered a deductible expense.

Now, imagine if you're investing and you're using a credit card to snag some big-ticket items like appliances or fixtures. In this case, it might be a smart move to get yourself a business credit card. Why? Because it helps keep things organised and separate. Your business expenses stay on one side, and your expenses on the other. So remember, when it comes to interest expenses, there's more than meets the eye and plenty of potential for making your taxes a bit friendlier.

Property Owner with Mortgage Document

3. You Get a Depreciation Deduction

The IRS gives you a pretty nifty advantage as a real estate investor. It's called depreciation, which lets you gradually deduct the wear and tear on your rental property over time. This spans 27.5 years and helps you recoup some of the property's original cost.

Since land doesn't wear out, only the actual home and certain improvements like a new roof, appliances, or carpeting can be depreciated. For example, if you bought a single-family rental home for $150,000 and the land is valued at $15,000, your depreciation is based on the $135,000 cost for the building itself.

Let's say you add a new roof for $20,000 and snazzy kitchen appliances worth $4,000. According to the IRS, appliances depreciate over five years, while the roof follows the same 27.5-year schedule as the property.

Your adjusted cost basis for the first year of ownership becomes $155,000. This leads to an annual depreciation of $5,636 for the property and $800 for the appliances. When you combine these, your total yearly depreciation expense is $6,436.

Here's where the real magic happens. Imagine your rental property raked in a pre-tax income of $8,000. Guess what? You can deduct the total depreciation expense of $6,436 from that income. This whittles down your taxable income to a mere $1,564.

As time passes, the appliance depreciation wears off after five years, and your annual depreciation expense drops to $5,636 unless you make more significant improvements.

4. You Can Defer Capital Gains Tax

Hold onto your hats because there's another fantastic tax advantage waiting in the realm of rental property ownership: the Section 1031 tax-deferred exchange.

Usually, when you sell a rental property, you face the music of capital gains tax and depreciation recapture tax. Based on your federal income tax bracket, this depreciation recapture gets taxed as regular income, with rates up to 25%. On top of this, you're also hit with a long-term capital gains tax on property, which could be at 0%, 15%, or 20%, depending on your profit from the sale.

Instead of forking over those taxes, you get to channel your money into another rental property. This move lets your investment continue growing, and it's as if the taxman gives you a break.

Of course, the rules for a 1031 exchange aren't exactly a walk in the park – they're a bit complex. But here are three main ones you need to follow:

  • Your replacement property must match or exceed the value of the one you sold.
  • You've got 45 days to identify your replacement property.
  • The purchase of the replacement property must occur within 180 days.

This tax-deferral magic can be repeated as many times as you want, allowing you to keep deferring capital gains and depreciation recapture taxes. If you do eventually decide to sell your properties, be ready to pay up on those deferred taxes.

Some investors hang onto their rental properties, drawing rental income over the years and eventually passing the properties down to their heirs. And when they inherit the properties, they hit the jackpot. The property's cost basis is stepped up to the current market value, wiping out any lingering capital gains and depreciation and recapturing tax liabilities for the lucky heir.

Happy Landlord Receiving Rental Income

5. Owner Expenses are also Deductible

Even with a property manager, you can still claim investment property tax deductions as the owner to lower your taxable income. Here are some potential deductions to keep in mind:

Continuing Education

Investing in your knowledge and skills can be a smart move, and the good news is that expenses related to your education and learning in the real estate field can often be deducted. This includes dues for being part of real estate investing clubs and subscriptions to relevant magazines or periodicals.

So, whether expanding your understanding of the industry or honing your skills through educational programs, remember that these expenses can work in your favour by lowering your taxable income. It's a way to invest in yourself while also potentially saving on taxes.

Travel Deductions

You can deduct travel expenses for rental property-related activities, such as visiting properties, meeting tenants, or attending conferences. However, there are a few guidelines to follow, as outlined in IRS Publication 463:

  • The travel's primary purpose must be for business, with a clear business objective.
  • The majority of your time during the travel should be dedicated to business activities, not leisure.
  • Your travel expenses must be ordinary and necessary for your real estate business. Choose affordable accommodations instead of extravagant resorts.

Travelling to your rental property can also open the door to auto expense deductions. To deduct car expenses for business, track actual expenses or the standard mileage rate.

So, whether you're flying to a real estate event, hitting the road to visit your properties, or tracking your auto expenses, remember that these deductions can help ease your tax load and make your rental property endeavours more financially rewarding.

Home Office Deduction

If you have a designated area within your home that's exclusively and regularly used for your rental property business, you can deduct expenses related to that home office. However, there are some conditions to meet:

  • The space you claim as a home office must be used exclusively and regularly for business purposes related to your rental property activities.
  • The IRS offers a simplified method for calculating the home office deduction. With this option, you can claim a standard deduction of $5 per square foot of the home office area, up to a maximum of 300 square feet.

It's important to keep accurate records and documentation of your home office space and related expenses to follow IRS guidelines properly. If you manage your rental property business from a home office, you may be able to deduct expenses to lower your taxes.

6. You Avoid FICA Taxes

Typically, self-employed individuals are responsible for paying both the employer and employee portions of Social Security and Medicare taxes, known as FICA taxes. However, income generated from rental properties is often categorised differently. It's usually considered passive income rather than earned income.

Earned Income vs. Passive Income

When you're running a business and earn income from it, that's considered earned income. For instance, if you make $100,000 from your business, you'd be liable for the full 15.3 percent FICA tax, totalling $15,300.

However, if that same $100,000 comes from rental properties, you're in luck – you're generally exempt from paying FICA tax on that rental income. This can result in significant tax savings, allowing you to keep more of your rental income in your pocket.

So, while FICA taxes can be a hefty expense for those earning traditional income, the rental property income route offers a welcome break by avoiding these additional taxes. Another incentive makes rental property ownership an appealing option for many investors.

7. You Can Qualify for Pass-through Deduction

Real estate investors who meet the criteria can use a neat deduction. With some rules in place, they can potentially deduct up to 20% of their net business income from their rental income taxes.

To be eligible, the investor must own a pass-through business and have qualified business income (QBI).

A pass-through business can take many forms – partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), S corporations, or even a sole proprietorship.

QBI is essentially the net income or profit earned by the pass-through business. Not all income is QBI. This includes capital gains, dividends, and interest income from pass-through entities.

Let's say we have Bob, the proud owner of several single-family rentals tucked away in an LLC. Bob might be lucky if these rentals collectively bring in $50,000 in net income each year. He could potentially knock off $10,000 from his personal tax return with the pass-through deduction.

Tax Forms and Calculator

How is Rental Income Taxed?

Understanding the taxation of rental income is essential for any property investor. While taxes may seem like a headache, knowing the ins and outs can save you money in the long run. Let's dig deeper into how rental income impacts your taxes.

Rental Income and Taxes:

First things first: the good news for property investors is that rental income isn't typically classified as "earned income." This is significant because it means you're generally exempt from paying FICA or payroll taxes on this income. This can be a substantial savings, considering FICA taxes can eat up about 15.3% of earned income for self-employed individuals.

Reporting Rental Income:

To keep Uncle Sam happy, you'll need to report all your rental income on IRS Form 1040, Schedule E. Think of this form as your landlord report card. It details all the critical aspects of your rental properties: from the rent you've collected to the costs you've incurred—like maintenance, repairs, and mortgage interest—and even the depreciation you claim for each property you own. This form serves as the central repository for all things related to your rental income and expenditures.

Trickling to Your Main Tax Form:

Once you've completed your Schedule E, the information feeds into another key IRS form—Schedule 1 (Form 1040). If you think of Schedule E as a detailed ledger for each property, Schedule 1 is more like a summary sheet that collates various types of income and adjustments to arrive at your total income or loss for the year. Ultimately, the figure from Schedule 1 makes its way to line 8 of your main tax form, be it Form 1040, 1040-SR, or 1040-NR. It's a multi-step process, but it ensures all your income and deductions are accounted for when determining your tax liability.

Tax Brackets at Play:

Now comes the moment of truth. The income (or loss) you've reported from your rental property doesn't live in a vacuum; it gets combined with your other sources of income—like salaries, business income, or investment gains—to determine your overall taxable income for the year. This aggregate income is what lands you in a particular federal tax bracket, determining the rate at which your income is taxed. So essentially, your rental income joins a "financial soiree" with your other revenue streams, each contributing its share to your total tax bill.

A Seamless Connection:

The process might seem a bit convoluted, but it's essentially a sequence of steps that connect the dots of your financial landscape. From detailed income and expense reports on Schedule E, to summarising your financial activities on Schedule 1, and ultimately defining your tax liabilities via your main tax form—every piece of the puzzle has its place and purpose.

As a rental property owner, you're not just collecting rent and fixing leaky faucets. You're navigating the complexities of tax code, and that's all part and parcel of the rental property ownership experience. By understanding each step and planning accordingly, you can optimise your tax situation and make your investments work smarter for you.

Record-Keeping Tips from HMRC

HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) strongly advises property investors in the UK to keep meticulous records to fully benefit from the various tax advantages available to rental property owners. Good record-keeping serves multiple purposes, including:

  • Monitoring the financial performance of your rental property.
  • Generating comprehensive financial statements.
  • Tracking sources of income and expenditures.
  • Identifying deductible expenses for tax purposes.
  • Preparing for your annual Self Assessment tax returns.

If HMRC decides to investigate your tax affairs, you'll need to provide concrete evidence to substantiate any deductions you've claimed. This should include invoices, receipts, bank statements, and proof of payment. Special attention should be given to tracking travel expenses related to the management of your property, as these can also be deductible under certain conditions.

Failure to provide adequate documentation could result in additional tax liabilities, penalties, and accrued interest. Therefore, keeping organised and thorough records is not just a suggestion, but a crucial part of responsible property ownership and tax planning in the UK.

Final Thoughts 

If you own a rental property, you can use many different tax perks to lower how much you get taxed. As a landlord, it's a good idea to do some digging into the specific tax benefits your state offers for rental properties. When you get a handle on both the federal and state rules that apply to your investment, you can discover ways to shrink your taxable income and make the most of different deductions tied to your property.

Consider entrusting Houst with your property rental management. With Houst, you're getting a seasoned partner to handle the ins and outs of your property. They've covered you, from finding the right tenants to managing maintenance. Make renting easy with Houst! 

The Insider @ Houst

The Insider @ Houst

The Insider team at Houst is dedicated to providing up-to-date and relevant information on short-term rentals. If you have hosting inquiries, please write to us at expert@houst.com. For guest inquiries, reach out at guest@houst.com. We are here to help you navigate the world of short lets and look forward to assisting you with your needs.

The Insider @ Houst

The Insider @ Houst

The Insider team at Houst is dedicated to providing up-to-date and relevant information on short-term rentals. If you have hosting inquiries, please write to us at expert@houst.com. For guest inquiries, reach out at guest@houst.com. We are here to help you navigate the world of short lets and look forward to assisting you with your needs.

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