1.   Rental Income and Expenses (If No Personal Use of Dwelling)

This chapter discusses the various types of rental income and expenses for a residential rental activity with no personal use of the dwelling. Generally, each year you will report all income and deduct all out-of-pocket expenses in full. The deduction to recover the cost of your rental property—depreciation—is taken over a prescribed number of years, and is discussed in chapter 2, Depreciation of Rental Property.

If your rental income is from property you also use personally or rent to someone at less than a fair rental price, first read the information in chapter 5 , Personal Use of Dwelling Unit (Including Vacation Home).

Rental Income

In most cases, you must include in your gross income all amounts you receive as rent. Rental income is any payment you receive for the use or occupation of property. In addition to amounts you receive as normal rental payments, there are other amounts that may be rental income.

When To Report

When you report rental income on your tax return generally depends on whether you are a cash basis taxpayer or use an accrual method. Most individual taxpayers use the cash method.

Cash method.   You are a cash basis taxpayer if you report income on your return in the year you actually or constructively receive it, regardless of when it was earned. You constructively receive income when it is made available to you, for example, by being credited to your bank account.

Accrual method.    If you are an accrual basis taxpayer, you generally report income when you earn it, rather than when you receive it. You generally deduct your expenses when you incur them, rather than when you pay them.

More information.   See Publication 538, Accounting Periods and Methods, for more information about when you constructively receive income and accrual methods of accounting.

Types of Income

The following are common types of rental income.

Advance rent.   Advance rent is any amount you receive before the period that it covers. Include advance rent in your rental income in the year you receive it regardless of the period covered or the method of accounting you use.

Example.

On March 18, 2013, you signed a 10-year lease to rent your property. During 2013, you received $9,600 for the first year's rent and $9,600 as rent for the last year of the lease. You must include $19,200 in your rental income in the first year.

Canceling a lease.   If your tenant pays you to cancel a lease, the amount you receive is rent. Include the payment in your income in the year you receive it regardless of your method of accounting.

Expenses paid by tenant.   If your tenant pays any of your expenses, those payments are rental income. Because you must include this amount in income, you can also deduct the expenses if they are deductible rental expenses. For more information, see Rental Expenses , later.

Example 1.

Your tenant pays the water and sewage bill for your rental property and deducts the amount from the normal rent payment. Under the terms of the lease, your tenant does not have to pay this bill. Include the utility bill paid by the tenant and any amount received as a rent payment in your rental income. You can deduct the utility payment made by your tenant as a rental expense.

Example 2.

While you are out of town, the furnace in your rental property stops working. Your tenant pays for the necessary repairs and deducts the repair bill from the rent payment. Include the repair bill paid by the tenant and any amount received as a rent payment in your rental income. You can deduct the repair payment made by your tenant as a rental expense.

Property or services.   If you receive property or services as rent, instead of money, include the fair market value of the property or services in your rental income.

  If the services are provided at an agreed upon or specified price, that price is the fair market value unless there is evidence to the contrary.

Example.

Your tenant is a house painter. He offers to paint your rental property instead of paying 2 months rent. You accept his offer.

Include in your rental income the amount the tenant would have paid for 2 months rent. You can deduct that same amount as a rental expense for painting your property.

Security deposits.   Do not include a security deposit in your income when you receive it if you plan to return it to your tenant at the end of the lease. But if you keep part or all of the security deposit during any year because your tenant does not live up to the terms of the lease, include the amount you keep in your income in that year.

   If an amount called a security deposit is to be used as a final payment of rent, it is advance rent. Include it in your income when you receive it.

Other Sources of Rental Income

Lease with option to buy.   If the rental agreement gives your tenant the right to buy your rental property, the payments you receive under the agreement are generally rental income. If your tenant exercises the right to buy the property, the payments you receive for the period after the date of sale are considered part of the selling price.

Part interest.   If you own a part interest in rental property, you must report your part of the rental income from the property.

Rental of property also used as your home.   If you rent property that you also use as your home and you rent it less than 15 days during the tax year, do not include the rent you receive in your income and do not deduct rental expenses. However, you can deduct on Schedule A (Form 1040), Itemized Deductions, the interest, taxes, and casualty and theft losses that are allowed for nonrental property. See chapter 5, Personal Use of Dwelling Unit (Including Vacation Home).

Rental Expenses

In most cases, the expenses of renting your property, such as maintenance, insurance, taxes, and interest, can be deducted from your rental income.

Personal use of rental property.   If you sometimes use your rental property for personal purposes, you must divide your expenses between rental and personal use. Also, your rental expense deductions may be limited. See chapter 5, Personal Use of Dwelling Unit (Including Vacation Home).

Part interest.   If you own a part interest in rental property, you can deduct expenses you paid according to your percentage of ownership.

Example.

Roger owns a one-half undivided interest in a rental house. Last year he paid $968 for necessary repairs on the property. Roger can deduct $484 (50% × $968) as a rental expense. He is entitled to reimbursement for the remaining half from the co-owner.

When To Deduct

You generally deduct your rental expenses in the year you pay them.

If you use the accrual method, see Publication 538 for more information.

Types of Expenses

Listed below are the most common rental expenses.

  • Advertising.

  • Auto and travel expenses.

  • Cleaning and maintenance.

  • Commissions.

  • Depreciation.

  • Insurance.

  • Interest (other).

  • Legal and other professional fees.

  • Local transportation expenses.

  • Management fees.

  • Mortgage interest paid to banks, etc.

  • Points.

  • Rental payments.

  • Repairs.

  • Taxes.

  • Utilities.

Some of these expenses, as well as other less common ones, are discussed below.

Depreciation.   Depreciation is a capital expense. It is the mechanism for recovering your cost in an income producing property and must be taken over the expected life of the property.

  You can begin to depreciate rental property when it is ready and available for rent. See Placed in Service under When Does Depreciation Begin and End in chapter 2.

Insurance premiums paid in advance.   If you pay an insurance premium for more than one year in advance, for each year of coverage you can deduct the part of the premium payment that will apply to that year. You cannot deduct the total premium in the year you pay it. See chapter 6 of Publication 535 for information on deductible premiums.

Interest expense.   You can deduct mortgage interest you pay on your rental property. When you refinance a rental property for more than the previous outstanding balance, the portion of the interest allocable to loan proceeds not related to rental use generally cannot be deducted as a rental expense. Chapter 4 of Publication 535 explains mortgage interest in detail.

Expenses paid to obtain a mortgage.   Certain expenses you pay to obtain a mortgage on your rental property cannot be deducted as interest. These expenses, which include mortgage commissions, abstract fees, and recording fees, are capital expenses that are part of your basis in the property.

Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement.   If you paid $600 or more of mortgage interest on your rental property to any one person, you should receive a Form 1098 or similar statement showing the interest you paid for the year. If you and at least one other person (other than your spouse if you file a joint return) were liable for, and paid interest on, the mortgage, and the other person received the Form 1098, report your share of the interest on Schedule E (Form 1040), line 13. Attach a statement to your return showing the name and address of the other person. On the dotted line next to line 13, enter “See attached.

Legal and other professional fees.   You can deduct, as a rental expense, legal and other professional expenses such as tax return preparation fees you paid to prepare Schedule E, Part I. For example, on your 2013 Schedule E you can deduct fees paid in 2013 to prepare Part I of your 2012 Schedule E. You can also deduct, as a rental expense, any expense (other than federal taxes and penalties) you paid to resolve a tax underpayment related to your rental activities.

Local benefit taxes.   In most cases, you cannot deduct charges for local benefits that increase the value of your property, such as charges for putting in streets, sidewalks, or water and sewer systems. These charges are nondepreciable capital expenditures and must be added to the basis of your property. However, you can deduct local benefit taxes that are for maintaining, repairing, or paying interest charges for the benefits.

Local transportation expenses.   You may be able to deduct your ordinary and necessary local transportation expenses if you incur them to collect rental income or to manage, conserve, or maintain your rental property. However, transportation expenses incurred to travel between your home and a rental property generally constitute nondeductible commuting costs unless you use your home as your principal place of business. See Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home, for information on determining if your home office qualifies as a principal place of business.

  Generally, if you use your personal car, pickup truck, or light van for rental activities, you can deduct the expenses using one of two methods: actual expenses or the standard mileage rate. For 2013, the standard mileage rate for business use is 56.5 cents per mile. For more information, see chapter 4 of Publication 463.

  
To deduct car expenses under either method, you must keep records that follow the rules in chapter 5 of Publication 463. In addition, you must complete Form 4562, Part V, and attach it to your tax return.

Pre-rental expenses.   You can deduct your ordinary and necessary expenses for managing, conserving, or maintaining rental property from the time you make it available for rent.

Rental of equipment.   You can deduct the rent you pay for equipment that you use for rental purposes. However, in some cases, lease contracts are actually purchase contracts. If so, you cannot deduct these payments. You can recover the cost of purchased equipment through depreciation.

Rental of property.   You can deduct the rent you pay for property that you use for rental purposes. If you buy a leasehold for rental purposes, you can deduct an equal part of the cost each year over the term of the lease.

Travel expenses.   You can deduct the ordinary and necessary expenses of traveling away from home if the primary purpose of the trip is to collect rental income or to manage, conserve, or maintain your rental property. You must properly allocate your expenses between rental and nonrental activities. You cannot deduct the cost of traveling away from home if the primary purpose of the trip is to improve the property. The cost of improvements is recovered by taking depreciation. For information on travel expenses, see chapter 1 of Publication 463.

  
To deduct travel expenses, you must keep records that follow the rules in chapter 5 of Publication 463.

Uncollected rent.   If you are a cash basis taxpayer, do not deduct uncollected rent. Because you have not included it in your income, it is not deductible.

  If you use an accrual method, report income when you earn it. If you are unable to collect the rent, you may be able to deduct it as a business bad debt. See chapter 10 of Publication 535 for more information about business bad debts.

Vacant rental property.   If you hold property for rental purposes, you may be able to deduct your ordinary and necessary expenses (including depreciation) for managing, conserving, or maintaining the property while the property is vacant. However, you cannot deduct any loss of rental income for the period the property is vacant.

Vacant while listed for sale.   If you sell property you held for rental purposes, you can deduct the ordinary and necessary expenses for managing, conserving, or maintaining the property until it is sold. If the property is not held out and available for rent while listed for sale, the expenses are not deductible rental expenses.

Points

The term “points” is often used to describe some of the charges paid, or treated as paid, by a borrower to take out a loan or a mortgage. These charges are also called loan origination fees, maximum loan charges, or premium charges. Any of these charges (points) that are solely for the use of money are interest. Because points are prepaid interest, you generally cannot deduct the full amount in the year paid, but must deduct the interest over the term of the loan.

The method used to figure the amount of points you can deduct each year follows the original issue discount (OID) rules. In this case, points are equivalent to OID, which is the difference between:

  • The amount borrowed (redemption price at maturity, or principal) and

  • The proceeds (issue price).

The first step is to determine whether your total OID (which you may have on bonds or other investments in addition to the mortgage loan), including the OID resulting from the points, is insignificant or de minimis. If the OID is not de minimis, you must use the constant-yield method to figure how much you can deduct.

De minimis OID.   The OID is de minimis if it is less than one-fourth of 1% (.0025) of the stated redemption price at maturity (principal amount of the loan) multiplied by the number of full years from the date of original issue to maturity (term of the loan).

  If the OID is de minimis, you can choose one of the following ways to figure the amount of points you can deduct each year.
  • On a constant-yield basis over the term of the loan.

  • On a straight line basis over the term of the loan.

  • In proportion to stated interest payments.

  • In its entirety at maturity of the loan.

You make this choice by deducting the OID (points) in a manner consistent with the method chosen on your timely filed tax return for the tax year in which the loan is issued.

Example.

Carol Madison took out a $100,000 mortgage loan on January 1, 2013, to buy a house she will use as a rental during 2013. The loan is to be repaid over 30 years. During 2013, Carol paid $10,000 of mortgage interest (stated interest) to the lender. When the loan was made, she paid $1,500 in points to the lender. The points reduced the principal amount of the loan from $100,000 to $98,500, resulting in $1,500 of OID. Carol determines that the points (OID) she paid are de minimis based on the following computation.

Redemption price at maturity (principal amount of the loan) $100,000
Multiplied by: The term of the  
loan in complete years
×30
Multiplied by ×.0025
De minimis amount $7,500

The points (OID) she paid ($1,500) are less than the de minimis amount ($7,500). Therefore, Carol has de minimis OID and she can choose one of the four ways discussed earlier to figure the amount she can deduct each year. Under the straight line method, she can deduct $50 each year for 30 years.

Constant-yield method.   If the OID is not de minimis, you must use the constant-yield method to figure how much you can deduct each year.

  You figure your deduction for the first year in the following manner.
  1. Determine the issue price of the loan. If you paid points on the loan, the issue price generally is the difference between the principal and the points.

  2. Multiply the result in (1) by the yield to maturity (defined later).

  3. Subtract any qualified stated interest payments (defined later) from the result in (2). This is the OID you can deduct in the first year.

Yield to maturity (YTM).   This rate is generally shown in the literature you receive from your lender. If you do not have this information, consult your lender or tax advisor. In general, the YTM is the discount rate that, when used in computing the present value of all principal and interest payments, produces an amount equal to the principal amount of the loan.

Qualified stated interest (QSI).   In general, this is the stated interest that is unconditionally payable in cash or property (other than another loan of the issuer) at least annually over the term of the loan at a fixed rate.

Example—Year 1.

The facts are the same as in the previous example. The yield to maturity on Carol's loan is 10.2467%, compounded annually.

She figured the amount of points (OID) she could deduct in 2013 as follows.

Principal amount of the loan $100,000
Minus: Points (OID) –1,500
Issue price of the loan $98,500
Multiplied by: YTM × .102467
Total 10,093
Minus: QSI –10,000
Points (OID) deductible in 2013 $93

To figure your deduction in any subsequent year, you start with the adjusted issue price. To get the adjusted issue price, add to the issue price figured in Year 1 any OID previously deducted. Then follow steps (2) and (3), earlier.

Example—Year 2.

Carol figured the deduction for 2014 as follows.

Issue price $98,500
Plus: Points (OID) deducted  
in 2013
+93
Adjusted issue price $98,593
Multiplied by: YTM × .102467
Total 10,103
Minus: QSI –10,000
Points (OID) deductible in 2014 $103

Loan or mortgage ends.    If your loan or mortgage ends, you may be able to deduct any remaining points (OID) in the tax year in which the loan or mortgage ends. A loan or mortgage may end due to a refinancing, prepayment, foreclosure, or similar event. However, if the refinancing is with the same lender, the remaining points (OID) generally are not deductible in the year in which the refinancing occurs, but may be deductible over the term of the new mortgage or loan.

Points when loan refinance is more than the previous outstanding balance.   When you refinance a rental property for more than the previous outstanding balance, the portion of the points allocable to loan proceeds not related to rental use generally cannot be deducted as a rental expense. For example, if an individual refinanced a loan with a balance of $100,000, the amount of the new loan was $120,000, and the taxpayer used $20,000 to purchase a car, points allocable to the $20,000 would be treated as nondeductible personal interest.

Repairs and Improvements

Generally, an expense for repairing or maintaining your rental property may be deducted if you are not required to capitalize the expense.

Improvements.   You must capitalize any expense you pay to improve your rental property. An expense is for an improvement if it results in a betterment to your property, restores your property, or adapts your property to a new or different use.

Betterments.   Expenses that may result in a betterment to your property include expenses for fixing a pre-existing defect or condition, enlarging or expanding your property, or increasing the capacity, strength, or quality of your property.

Restoration.   Expenses that may be for restoration include expenses for replacing a substantial structural part of your property, repairing damage to your property after you properly adjusted the basis of your property as a result of a casualty loss, or rebuilding your property to a like-new condition.

Adaptation.   Expenses that may be for adaptation include expenses for altering your property to a use that is not consistent with the intended ordinary use of your property when you began renting the property.

Separate the costs of repairs and improvements, and keep accurate records. You will need to know the cost of improvements when you sell or depreciate your property.

The expenses you capitalize for improving your property can generally be depreciated as if the improvement were separate property.

Table 1-1.Examples of Improvements

Additions 
Bedroom 
Bathroom 
Deck 
Garage 
Porch 
Patio 
 
Lawn & Grounds 
Landscaping 
Driveway 
Walkway 
Fence 
Retaining wall 
Sprinkler system 
Swimming pool
Miscellaneous 
Storm windows, doors 
New roof 
Central vacuum 
Wiring upgrades 
Satellite dish 
Security system  
 
Heating & Air Conditioning 
Heating system 
Central air conditioning 
Furnace 
Duct work 
Central humidifier 
Filtration system
Plumbing 
Septic system 
Water heater 
Soft water system 
Filtration system 
 
Interior Improvements 
Built-in appliances 
Kitchen modernization 
Flooring 
Wall-to-wall carpeting 
 
Insulation 
Attic 
Walls, floor 
Pipes, duct work

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