How Is Rental Income Taxed?

By PropertyClub Team
Sep 27th 2023
Rental income can be a lucrative source of revenue, whether you're a homeowner renting out a spare room, a real estate investor with multiple properties, or someone who occasionally offers their space on vacation rental platforms. Understanding how rental income is taxed is essential to ensure you stay compliant with tax laws and make the most of your investment. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of rental income taxation, covering everything from the types of rental income to deductible expenses.

hash-markTypes of Rental Income

Rental income comes in various forms, each subject to its own set of tax rules and regulations. Understanding these different types of rental income is crucial for accurate reporting and taxation. Here, we'll explore the three primary categories:

Residential Rental Income

Definition: Residential rental income is generated from leasing out a residential property, such as a house, apartment, or condominium, to tenants.

Tax Treatment: In most cases, residential rental income is considered ordinary income and is subject to federal and state income taxes. Tax rules may vary depending on factors like the duration of the rental and personal use of the property.

Commercial Rental Income

Definition: Commercial rental income stems from leasing commercial properties like office buildings, retail spaces, warehouses, or industrial facilities to businesses.

Tax Treatment: Commercial rental income is also typically treated as ordinary income. However, it may be subject to additional tax considerations, such as lease incentives, triple-net leases, or other complex lease structures.

Short-Term Vacation Rental Income

Definition: Short-term vacation rental income is earned by renting out a property on a short-term basis, often through platforms like Airbnb or VRBO. This type of rental income is typically for stays of days or weeks.

Tax Treatment: Short-term vacation rental income is generally taxed as ordinary income. However, specific rules related to the number of rental days and personal use can impact the tax treatment. Some expenses, like cleaning and maintenance, may also be deductible.

hash-markReporting Rental Income

Once you have earned rental income from your property, it becomes crucial to understand the accurate process of re­porting it to the tax authorities. Failing to do so might result in pe­nalties and legal problems.

Requirements for Reporting Rental Income

Income Sources: Report all re­ntal income sources, which include re­nt payments, security deposits (if forfe­ited), and any other payments re­ceived that are associate­d with the property.

Form 1099-MISC: If you receive rental income of $600 or more from a single tenant or payer during the tax year, they may be required to provide you with a Form 1099-MISC. However, even if you don't receive a 1099-MISC, you are still obligated to report all rental income.

Filing Deadlines and Tax Forms

Forms: Most individuals declare­ their rental income on Sche­dule E of Form 1040. If you own multiple rental properties, it is important to list each property se­parately.

Filing Deadline­s: Tax returns, including the reporting of re­ntal income, are typically due by April 15th. However, taxpayers can reque­st an extension if nee­ded.

Tax Year: Rental income is reported on your federal income tax return for the tax year in which it was received.

State and Local Reporting

It is important to be aware that certain states have their own unique income tax laws and reporting requirements specifically for re­ntal income. To ensure compliance­, it is advised to conduct thorough research on the specific rules governing your state.

Rental Income from International Properties

If you earn re­ntal income from properties locate­d outside the United State­s, there may be additional re­porting and tax obligations to consider. It is advisable to seek guidance from a tax professional who specialize­s in international matters. They can help you navigate through these comple­xities effectively.

hash-markDeductible Expenses for Rental Income

One of the key benefits of earning rental income is the ability to deduct certain expenses related to the property. Deductions can help reduce your taxable rental income and ultimately lower your overall tax liability. 

Here are some common deductible expenses you should be aware of:

1. Mortgage Interest

You can deduct the interest paid on your mortgage loan for the rental property. This is often a substantial deduction for property owners with mortgages.

2. Property Taxes

Property taxes imposed by state or local authorities on your rental property are typically deductible.

3. Repairs and Maintenance

Costs associated with maintaining and repairing your rental property are deductible. This includes expenses for fixing plumbing, electrical systems, HVAC, and general upkeep.

4. Insurance Premiums

Premiums paid for insurance coverage on the rental property, such as homeowner's insurance, landlord insurance, or liability insurance, are deductible.

5. Depreciation

Depreciation allows you to deduct a portion of the property's cost over time as it wears out. This non-cash expense can provide significant tax benefits.

6. Utilities and Operating Costs

Expenses related to utilities (e.g., water, gas, electricity) and other operating costs (e.g., property management fees, advertising, and legal fees) can be deducted.

7. Travel Expenses

If you travel to manage your rental property, you may be able to deduct expenses such as mileage, lodging, and meals. However, there are specific rules governing these deductions.

8. Home Office Deduction

If you maintain a home office used exclusively for rental property management, you may be eligible for a deduction based on the portion of your home used for business.

9. Interest on Loans

Interest on loans used to finance improvements or repairs to the rental property may be deductible.

10. Depreciation on Furniture and Appliances

You can depreciate the cost of furniture, appliances, and other items used in the rental property.

11. Legal and Professional Fees

Fees paid to lawyers, accountants, or property management companies are generally deductible.

12. Casualty Losses

If the property suffers damage due to unexpected events (e.g., fire, storm, theft) not covered by insurance, you may be able to deduct some of the losses.

hash-markTax Breaks For Rental Property Owners

In addition to the deductions listed above, there are a few other tax breaks that rental property owners may be eligible for. These include:

  • Qualified business income (QBI) deduction: This deduction allows pass-through entities, such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations, to deduct up to 20% of their qualified business income. To qualify for the QBI deduction, your taxable income must be below a certain threshold.
  • Depreciation: Depreciation is a deduction that allows you to write off the cost of your rental property over time. This can be a significant tax break, especially in the early years of owning a rental property.
  • Like-kind exchange: If you sell a rental property and then use the proceeds to purchase another rental property within 180 days, you may be able to defer paying capital gains taxes on the sale.

hash-markHow Is Rental Income Taxed Bottom Line

Rental income can be a great way to generate passive income, but it is important to understand how it is taxed. By keeping track of your rental expenses and taking advantage of available deductions, you can reduce your tax burden on rental income. If you have any questions about how rental income is taxed, be sure to consult with a tax professional.