Two (2) Ways to Take Your Rental Real Estate Losses
Two (2) Ways to Take Your Rental Real Estate Losses Even if you have strong positive cash flow from your rental real estate, chances are you still have a loss for tax purposes due to the depreciation deduction.
This is a great tax strategy because your positive cash flow is sheltered from tax. But, it can be even better if you are able to take your losses against your other income (like your income from your job or the business that you run).
The general rule for rental real estate losses is that they are passive. This means they can only be taken against passive income. The income from your job and the business you run is active income so your rental losses cannot shelter this income. However, there are two exceptions to this rule.
** Exception #1: "Active Real Estate" exception. **
The Background on the Active Real Estate Exception
Rental real estate, in many cases, is held to provide financial security to individuals with moderate incomes. Because of this Congress believed that a rental real estate investment in which a taxpayer has significant responsibilities and which served a significant non-tax purpose should be treated differently than the activities meant to be limited under the passive loss provisions. So Congress created the active rental real estate exception.
- How It Works -
If you are active in your rental real estate activities you may be able to deduct up to $25,000 of your rental losses against other ordinary income. We say may be because there are income limitations which phase out the $25,000 deduction. The phase out will start when your adjusted gross income exceeds $100,000 and end when your adjusted gross income is at $150,000. This means that for every $2 over $100,000 of adjusted gross income you will lose $1 off the $25,000 deductible amount. For example if your adjusted gross income is $120,000 you will have to reduce the $25,000 exception by $10,000 and the most rental real estate losses you can deduct will be $15,000 for that tax year.
Don't let your high income penalize you! Learn my tax secrets to increase your cash flow by uncovering the hidden cash flow in your real estate. Several of my secrets reveal how to legally get around these income limitations!
What constitutes active participation?
Active participation exists so long as you participate, in the making of management decisions or arranging for others to provide services (such as repairs), in a significant and bona fide sense. Also, you must have at least a 10% interest in the activity at any time during the year.
** Exception #2: "Real Estate Professional" exception. **
What is a Real Estate Professional?
First, let's dispense with one myth: Real Estate Professional status does not mean you have to hold a real estate license. Rather, it is a designation you obtain by meeting certain specific requirements. If you qualify as a real estate professional you can deduct all your current year rental real estate losses against other income without limitations.
The first requirement is that you spend more than 750 hours in real estate trades or businesses in which you materially participate.
What is a real estate trade or business? A real estate trade or business is defined as ANY real estate development, redevelopment, construction, reconstruction, acquisition, conversion, rental, operation, management, leasing, or brokerage trade or business.
The 750 hours test must be met for each activity. So for example, say you have three rental properties. The general rule is that you have to perform at least 750 hours on activities related to EACH of those three properties. Fortunately, there is an exception to this rule. If you make the election to aggregate all of your rental real estate activities into one activity, you only have to meet the 750 hours requirement once for the tax year.
What types of activities qualify as real estate professional activities? Activities such as:
- Searching for possible rental properties - Attending real estate seminars or reading real estate books - Meeting with real estate agents and viewing properties - Meeting with mortgage brokers with regards to getting loans on properties - Travel time to and from the seminars and your property searches - Preparing your bookkeeping and tax information for your rental properties - Time spend buying or selling properties (i.e. signing the closing documents) - Studying and reviewing financial reports (Investor-type) - Preparing summaries or analyses for personal use (Investor-type) - Monitoring finances or operation in a non-managerial capacity (Investor-type)
An important note to the investor-type activities mentioned above is that these activities can only be counted towards real estate professional time if you are involved in the day-to-day operations or management of the activity for which you perform those tasks. Essentially, this means that if you have an independent property manager and your only real estate business is your rental properties, you probably will not qualify as a real estate professional.
The second requirement is that you spend more time in your real estate trades or businesses than in ALL OTHER trades or businesses combined. Time spent as an employee in real estate activities is counted only if you are a more than a 5% owner in that business.
- What You Need to Do -
You have to meet the above requirements each year. So, you could be a real estate professional one year but not the next. Only one spouse needs to meet the requirements in order for a married couple to take advantage of the benefits provided by the real estate professional status.
The extent of an individual's participation in an activity may be established by any reasonable means. Contemporaneous daily time reports, logs, or similar documents are not required if the extent of such participation may be established by other reasonable means. Documentation required includes the identification of services performed over a period of time and the approximate number of hours spent performing such services during such period, based on appointment books, calendars, or narrative statements.
If you are audited, the IRS will ask you to prove your real estate professional status. For more on how to be prepared, see my recent article titled: "Three (3) Things You Can Do To Be Prepared For An Audit"
If you interested in learning how to increase your cashflow in your real estate, I am presenting a FREE! teleseminar on Monday April 21st titled "How to Uncover the Hidden Cash Flow in Your Real Estate". Registration is free and more information can be found on our website under the seminars tab.
About the Author:
Tom Wheelwright is not only the founder and CEO of Provision, but he is the creative force behind Provision Wealth Strategists. In addition to his management responsibilities, Tom likes to coach clients on wealth, business, and tax strategies. Along with his frequent seminars on such strategies, Tom is an adjunct professor in the Masters of Tax program at Arizona State University. For more information, please visit www.provisionwealth.com
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