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Property Management Tax Deductions

Updated for Tax Year 2020 / May 11, 2021 11:10 PM


Becoming a residential landlord or owning a commercial property comes with new tax responsibilities. Learn about property management tax deductions and how to handle your new tax situation.

If you become a professional or part-time property manager or you start renting out properties to tenants, it could mean years of steady income. This income is subject to taxes, but it can also carry tax advantages, like property management tax deductions, write-offs, and more. As a result, you'll want to understand these items better come tax time each year.

This article reviews the details you need for managing taxes as a professional or part-time property manager, including:

  • How to file your taxes
  • How to manage your tax liability
  • Which forms you'll need to prepare and file
  • Deductible expenses

How should a property manager file taxes?

Many property managers qualify as self-employed. Others may work for a property management company or directly for a landlord as an employee, or they might manage property as an independent contractor. In all three cases, you'll owe taxes on any earnings you receive from managing property.

If you work for a property management firm or landlord, you'll face the same filing steps as any worker receiving a Form W-2 to report your income.

If you work as an independent contractor, you'll need to account for self-employment taxes, or both the employee and employer portions of Social Security and Medicare contributions. You can also deduct other business-related expenses that could save you money on your taxes.

If you're a self-employed property manager of your own rental property, you'll face a different tax liability altogether. You'll need to pay taxes on your rental income.

You can reduce your rental income by subtracting qualified deductible expenses. For example:

  • The cost of getting your property ready to rent
  • Paid advertising for attracting tenants
  • Maintenance costs
  • Insurance payments

You'll report your rental income and expenses on Schedule E, Supplemental Income and Loss, and file it with your Form 1040.

Some owners hold rental properties as pass-through entities. This means the income from your business is treated as your personal income and isn't subject to corporate taxes. If your real estate is held in a pass-through entity to limit your liability, you'll need to report your rental income and expenses on Form 8825, Rental Real Estate Income and Expenses of a Partnership or an S Corporation.

Which property management tax deductions can I claim?

If you manage your own rental real estate, you'll have many property management tax deductions available to lower your tax bill. If you choose to outsource your property management, all expenses related to paying a property manager are tax deductible. If you work as an employee for a property management firm, these deductions aren't available to you.

Renting your property means you'll face several expenses for upkeep, insurance, sourcing tenants, and more. Some of the most common tax deductible expenses you'll encounter as a property manager include:

  • Advertising
  • Cleaning and maintenance
  • Depreciation
  • Homeowner association dues and condo fees
  • Insurance premiums
  • Interest expenses
  • Local property taxes
  • Management fees
  • Pest control
  • Equipment rentals
  • Rents you paid to others
  • Repairs
  • Building supplies
  • Trash removal fees
  • Travel expenses
  • Utilities
  • Yard maintenance

When you look to claim these property management tax deductions, they must all qualify as ordinary and necessary.

Some expenses may mix business duties with your personal situation. For example, if you have a rental property and need to travel to it, you can deduct the cost of travel to your rental property. But you can only do this if the primary purpose of this travel is to check on the property or perform tasks related to renting it.

If the trip had multiple purposes — for example, you were driving to check the gas meter at the rental property but then went to the dentist — you must divide the travel costs between deductible business expenses and nondeductible personal costs.

What are passive activities and how do they affect me?

The IRS generally sees renting property as a passive activity. This means that, unlike non-passive activity such as earning wages, it's a business activity you don't actively participate in or contribute to. Renting property is subject to passive activity loss rules, which can limit your ability to offset income with losses. Namely, you can only offset income from passive activities with passive losses. For example, you can't use losses from owning a rental property to offset your income taxes.

Fortunately, you may qualify for an exception to these rules by actively participating in a rental real estate activity. When you do, you can deduct up to $25,000 of your rental loss even though the IRS considers it passive.

To qualify for active participation in managing your rental real estate, you must:

  • Own at least 10% of the property
  • Make major management decisions, such as approving new tenants, setting rental terms, and approving improvements

This exception phases out as your income rises. Specifically, if you have a modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) over $100,000, the $25,000 rental real estate exception phases out by $0.50 for every dollar over $100,000. Your exception completely phases out when your MAGI reaches $150,000.

For example, if you actively participated in the rental and have a MAGI of $95,000 with a rental loss for the year of $21,000, you can deduct your entire rental loss even though it qualifies as passive.

If your loss had risen to $29,000, you could only deduct the $25,000 maximum for the year. The nondeductible balance of $3,000 carries forward to future years.

If you file separately as a married couple and lived apart during the year, your maximum rental real estate loss exception comes to $12,500 with a MAGI phase-out beginning at $50,000 instead of $100,000.

If you spend considerable time in real estate activities during the year, you may qualify for an even more favorable rule for real estate professionals. This disregards passive activity loss rules from certain rental real estate activities, making them fully deductible in the year they occur.

What tax responsibilities do I have as a property manager?

As a property manager, you must track your deductible business-related expenses as well as your income to calculate your net rental income. This holds true whether you're a property owner, a contracted property manager, or a property management employee.

If you paid property management fees or brokers' commissions, you should report these to the IRS if they exceed $600. This will be reported on Form 1099-MISC for rent or Form 1099-NEC if disbursed as nonemployee compensation.

If you need to hire outside labor, such as an emergency plumber, and the total payment exceeds $600, you'll need to issue a 1099 form to report this payment.

If you don't own the real estate and only manage the property, you should still keep track of all income processed but not received (such as rents collected and disbursed to the building owner).

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