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Can You Claim a Boat or RV as a Primary Residence?

Updated for Tax Year 2019


OVERVIEW

Living at home doesn't necessarily mean you have to be tethered to one place. For federal tax purposes, a boat or a recreational vehicle can be either your main or secondary residence, entitling you to take advantage of the same tax deductions as a homeowner of a typical house.


 

A home is broadly defined

Friends on Yacht

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines a home broadly, allowing the term to encompass:

  • Houses
  • Condominiums
  • Cooperatives
  • Mobile Homes
  • RVs
  • House Trailers
  • Boats

The test the IRS applies is simply that the property must have all three:

  • sleeping
  • cooking and
  • toilet facilities

If so, it can be treated as a primary or secondary residence for tax purposes.

Declaring your main home

The IRS allows taxpayers to designate one residence only as a main home at any one time. The main home must be the one where you ordinarily live most of the year.

This can be a boat or RV even if the boat or vehicle doesn't have a permanent location. As long as it contains the required facilities, you can claim it as your main home on your taxes.

The benefit of treating a boat or RV as your primary residence, is to take allowable homeowner tax deductions that can decrease your overall tax bill. As long as the boat or RV is security for the loan used to buy it, you can deduct mortgage interest paid on that loan.

In the event you decide to move back into a more traditional house, your boat or RV can also be treated as a qualified second home, and the same homeowner deductions apply.

Divided use of your home

The only part of your main home that qualifies for homeowner tax deductions is the portion used for residential living. This issue arises, for example, if you use your houseboat to provide business tours, or if you have a dedicated area in your RV that you use as a home office.

To receive full tax benefits, you must divide your home between the part that is your primary residence and the part that is used to generate income. You can then use these portions to allocate the appropriate deductions between personal itemized deductions and business deductions.

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