4 Things Landlords Should Know to Save Big During Tax Season

*Although this is a US written article, it still offers some useful tips on saving money come tax time.

Tax season is upon us, and if you own rental real estate, then you may have a federal tax responsibility to report all rental income on your tax return. The IRS defines rental income as “any payment you receive for the use or occupation of property”, and may include:

  • Normal rent payments
  • Advance rent payments
  • Security deposits
  • Tenant payment for canceling a lease
  • Tenant-paid expenses
  • Property or services received, instead of money, as rent

Tax time can be confusing for the first-time and seasoned landlords alike, as there are several requirements you must meet when filing taxes as a landlord.

It’s been an eventful year for landlords, to say the least. With eviction moratoriums and other monetary fallout from the global pandemic, it’s important to find ways to save on your taxes and take advantage of deductions.

tax information for landlords to consider

To help you make it through this 2021 tax season and get the most out of your tax return, we’ve rounded up some of the best articles featuring tax tips for landlords.

These articles cover:

  • Tax Deductions: Learn what you can deduct to increase your tax savings.
  • COVID Resources: Discover key resources for navigating landlord responsibilities in the wake of the global pandemic.
  • Record-keeping: Figure out which documents you need to have on-hand when filing your taxes.
  • Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: Read how new tax laws have shifted the tax landscape for landlords.
  • Filing Taxes: Discover how to file your taxes based on your rental business setup.

With these important tax tips for landlords in mind, you could maximize your refund and save more money.

1. Top Tax Deductions for Landlords

Don’t pay more taxes on your rental income than you need to. Landlords can claim a variety of IRS deductions on their taxes. NOLO’s article “Top Ten Tax Deductions for Landlords” goes through essential deductions you should keep in mind when filing taxes.

Let’s take a closer look at three of these deductions:

tax deductions for landlords

  • Depreciation for Rental Real-estate Property

You may be able to recoup some of the cost of your real estate investment through depreciation. Landlords are allowed to deduct a portion of the total cost of their property over several years. Learn more about deducting long-term assets here.

  • Insurance

Did you know that you can deduct the premiums paid for many types of insurance you’ve purchased for your rental property? From flood insurance to landlord liability insurance, landlords generally are allowed to deduct some of the costs of insurance coverage.

  • Repairs

As a landlord, caused by both. Fortunately, the costs of rental property repairs can be deductible for the year in which they are completed.

It’s important to note that the repairs must be ordinary, necessary, and reasonable in amount. A few examples of applicable repairs include:

  • Repainting your rental property
  • Replacing broken windows
  • Repairing gutters

repairs to your unit can be deductible on your taxes

These are just a few of the deductions you can claim for your rental business. Take a look at this post in full and note any deductions you may be missing.

2. COVID Resources

It’s been a tumultuous year for landlords and tenants alike. Rental property owners have been challenged to shift their landlord practices in the age of social distancing. From transitioning to virtual property showings to wading through moratorium regulations, there’s been plenty to keep track of in the past year. Fortunately, there are key resources that can help you make the most of your tax return and determine what kind of aid may be available to property owners. The latest COVID-19 relief package offers $25 billion for rental assistance, allowing landlords to apply for funds on behalf of their tenants.

Benefits.gov provides a key list of helpful resources for landlords in the wake of COVID-19. Their resources page includes helpful webinars, editorial articles, forms, and news sources regarding the hurdles landlords have faced in 2020 and the start of 2021.

3. Records Landlords Need During Tax Season

As a landlord, it’s important to keep accurate records—especially if you plan to claim any of the deductions discussed above.

Maintaining organized records can help to ease the stress of tax season. If your rental documents are organized, then you can more easily find receipts, track any deductible expenses, and prepare your tax returns. TheBalanceSMB.com gives a great rundown on landlord record-keeping.

Keep the following records organized:

  • All tenant leases or rental agreements, for all of your properties
  • All legal documents, including any court appearances, fines, or inspection reports required for the property
  • Any type of permit you have taken out on the property
  • Any records that pertain to your business entity
  • Insurance policies
  • Loan documents
  • Tax records from the past years
  • Real estate investment papers, including property titles or deeds

keep good records at tax time

Landlords also need to consider their short-term records. These are documents related to income or expenses from the given tax year.

These may include:

  • Rental property advertising and listing costs
  • Mortgage interest
  • Rental business credit cards
  • Legal or professional fees for lawyers, etc.
  • Receipts for repairs
  • Receipts for rent payments
  • If applicable, receipts for utility costs

There’s plenty to keep track of, but it may be worth the effort. Having these important documents on-hand could help reduce stress and streamline your tax filing process. to learn more tips on landlord record-keeping.

4. What Landlords Should Know About the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) implemented key changes, some of which affect rental property owners. Fortunately, many of these changes work in a landlord’s favor.

NOLO broke down some of the ways this law affects landlords. Here are some of the most noteworthy changes:

Change #1: Individual Tax Rates Are Lower

Many residential landlords are likely required to pay income tax on their rental profits at their individual tax rates. Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, tax rates were as follows:tax rates prior to TCJA

The TCJA reduces these individual rates. As of 2021, the individual tax rates are as follows:

tax rates with TCJA

Key Takeaway: Landlords might benefit from lower income tax rates.

Change #2: There’s a New Pass-Through Tax Deduction

Prior to TCJA, if you received net taxable income from one of the following pass-through business entities, that net income was taxed at your personal tax rates.

  • Sole Proprietorship
  • LLC treated as a Sole Proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • LLC treated as a Partnership
  • S Corporation

Following TCJA, you might be able to take advantage of a new pass-through tax deduction, depending on your overall income level. If your rental activity qualifies as a business for tax purposes, you may be able to deduct up to 20% of your net rental income.

Key takeaway: Landlords that qualify for this deduction could see their tax burden eased.

Change #3: Section 179 Expensing Limit Has Increased

Section 179 allows rental business owners to deduct the cost of personal property used in their rental business, such as appliances, laundry equipment, or furniture.

TCJA expanded and increased this expensing level from $500,000 to $1,000,000. This is applicable for property purchased and placed into rental service from September 27, 2017 through December 31, 2022.

Key takeaway: Before TCJA, rental property owners couldn’t deduct the cost of personal property used in residential rental units. Following 2018, this restriction is no longer in effect.

To learn more about how TCJA might affect your taxes as a landlord this year.

How to File Your Taxes Based on Ownership Status

How you file your taxes depends on how you own your rental property. The article “Filing Your Taxes When You’re a Landlord” from NOLO explains how landlords should file their taxes based on rental property ownership:

Rental Property Owned Individually

  • If you own the rental property by yourself: You can file IRS Schedule E, Supplemental Income and Loss, to report your rental income and expenses.
  • If you own the rental property with a co-owner: Each co-owner should report his or her share of income and deductions from the rental property on his or her own tax return, using Schedule E. If you have a partner, each owner’s share should be based on ownership interest (which you can find listed on the property deed).

Rental Property Owned through a Business Entity

If you own your property through a business entity, then you should report your income and deductions from the property using IRS Form 8825, Rental Real Estate Income and Expenses of a Partnership or an S Corporation. Depending on the type of business entity, there are additional filing requirements.

Final Notes: Making the Most of this Tax Year

Filing taxes as a landlord doesn’t have to be a headache. Armed with the information above, and with the help of a tax professional, you can make the most of your tax returns.

As a landlord, you never want to lose out on money, whether it’s due to taxes, evictions, surprise tenant vacancy, or the non-payment of rent. allows you to gain access to detailed reports about your prospective tenant that can help you make a more informed decision about who occupies your rental property.

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By Andrea Collatz - Senior Marketing Analyst at TransUnion SmartMove

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