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5 Tax Benefits of Becoming a Landlord

Think your landlord has it made? Just wait until you find out about the tax breaks she’s eligible for. Owning a rental property certainly comes with its fair share of frustrations. When you consider what landlords stand to save on their income tax bills, however, you might want to give the job a second thought. A financial advisor can help you create a financial plan for your real estate goals. Let’s break down five ways property owners save during tax season.

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1. They Get the Mortgage Interest Deduction

Homeowners can deduct their mortgage interest for home loans with values of up to $1 million. They can also deduct some of the money they’ve borrowed that’s part of their home equity loan. But you don’t have to own your own home to get the deduction.

Landlords can take advantage of the tax break too by deducting the mortgage interest they’ve paid to buy or fix up their properties. This is typically the largest deduction that they can claim. When refinancing a property for more than it was worth originally, property owners can deduct additional amounts of interest and fees if the extra funds were used to improve or maintain the property.

2. They Qualify for Deductions Homeowners Don’t

5 Tax Benefits of Becoming a Landlord

Although there are many deductible expenses, deductions specifically for homeowners are limited. That’s not the case for landlords. Besides interest and mortgage points paid over the life of the loan, property owners can score deductions for different kinds of insurance premiums, including homeowners insurance and health insurance for their workers.

If you rent an apartment and you accidentally break something, you can’t get a tax write-off for covering the damage with money from your own pocket. But if you’re a landlord, you can deduct the cost of repairs that you’ve made for your tenants. Utilities like gas and electricity and property taxes that aren’t paid by the tenants are also deductible.

Check out our property tax calculator.

3. There’s a Depreciation Deduction

Another special benefit for landlords is the tax break they receive for the breakdown of their properties over time. They don’t get to deduct the full value of depreciation all at once, though. Rather, they must deduct those costs over a period of time: 27.5 years for residential properties and 39 years for commercial real estate.

When it comes to the depreciation deduction, there are other IRS guidelines. Only the value of the property’s structure and depreciating items inside the property (like appliances and windows that must be replaced) count as deductible costs. Depreciation begins as soon as the property is ready to be rented and ends either when you stop renting it out or when you’ve recouped the entire cost of your investment, whichever comes first.

There’s a catch, of course. The value of the land that the property sits on cannot be deducted. So for a $250,000 house, a landlord could only deduct the value of the building, and not the land valued at $70,000. If they rent the house for 27.5 years, their annual deduction would be roughly $6,545.

4. Travel Costs Are Deductible

5 Tax Benefits of Becoming a Landlord

Property owners who make routine trips to check on their tenants aren’t inconveniencing themselves, even if they have to go the distance to get to their properties. After all, they can deduct their travel expenses. That includes the cost of taxis, parking fees and gasoline if they’re using their own cars to make the trek. Instead of deducting individual expenses for car travel, landlords can opt to use the standard mileage rate, which is set at 58 cents per mile for tax year 2019.

If you’re a landlord who lives in a different state from your rental property, you can deduct the cost of rental cars, airfare and hotel rooms. Meals that you enjoy during your journey are deductible as well. It’s a good idea to tread carefully when it comes to deducting expenses for overnight trips, however. You could get audited by the IRS for deducting extra costs that you use to have fun while you’re traveling.

Related Article: 4 Questions to Ask Before Becoming a Landlord

5. Legal Fees Count as Deductible Expenses Too

Unfortunately, some matters can only be settled inside of a courtroom. Landlords who are forced to evict tenants or take legal action for any other reason have the upper hand, at least from a financial standpoint. Unlike their tenants, they can deduct court fees and attorney fees.

Bottom Line

Property owners enjoy a variety of perks at tax time. As long as they keep up with their receipts and have documentation to support their deductions, they have the opportunity to substantially reduce their tax bill. If you’re thinking about becoming a landlord, the deductions we’ve mentioned might be enough to convince you to take the plunge.

Tips for Filing Taxes

  • A financial advisor can optimize your tax strategy for your real estate goals and needs. SmartAsset’s free tool connects you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors, get started now.
  • When it comes to property and other assets, it’s important to do your research about the depreciation guidelines the IRS sets. This will give you a better idea of both your deduction term and rate, as well as your potential tax deductions.
  • If you don’t know whether you’re better off with the standard deduction versus itemized, you might want to read up on it and do some math. You might find that you’d save a significant amount of money one way or another, so it’s best to educate yourself before the tax return deadline.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages, ©iStock.com/Poike, ©iStock.com/anyaberkut

Amanda Dixon Amanda Dixon is a personal finance writer and editor with an expertise in taxes and banking. She studied journalism and sociology at the University of Georgia. Her work has been featured in Business Insider, AOL, Bankrate, The Huffington Post, Fox Business News, Mashable and CBS News. Born and raised in metro Atlanta, Amanda currently lives in Brooklyn.
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