Taxes 101


5 Tax Write-Offs for Owner-Occupied Rental Properties

12 Minute Read

Discover Essential Owner-Occupied Rental Property Tax Deductions



Did you know that many homeowners leave money on the table by not fully capitalizing on tax deductions for their owner-occupied rental properties? The IRS allows various write-offs that can significantly reduce how much tax you owe each year.

From depreciating your property over time to deducting rental expenses directly related to the management and maintenance of your rental units, understanding what you can—and cannot—deduct is vital. Ensure every dollar spent works to lower your taxable income. Don't pay one dollar more than necessary. Find out your current tax benefits by reading on.

How do tax write-offs work for owner-occupied rental properties?

Common Rental Property Tax Deductions

Deductions are critical for managing the financial aspects of rental property ownership. This guarantees that real estate agents and rental investors maximize tax benefits and adhere with IRS Publication 527. These tax strategies can affect net income, helping manage both state and local taxes as well as potential capital gains taxes.

Further Reading: Lower Your Tax Bill: 7 Essential Tax Write-Offs for Rental Property Owners

1. Mortgage Interest

Rental property owners can deduct the interest paid on a mortgage tied to the rental real estate, reducing their taxable income on Schedule E of their tax return.

2. Depreciation

Residential rental property is depreciated over 27.5 years. This deduction spreads the property’s cost across its useful life, lowering the owner's annual taxable income as reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

3. Repairs and Maintenance

Expenses related to maintaining the property, such as fixing a leak or installing a new roof, are deductible. However, improvements that increase the property's value must be depreciated, not deducted as expenses.

4. Property Taxes

Owners may deduct state and local property taxes paid on rental portions. If choosing to itemize, they can also deduct either state and local income taxes or sales taxes.

5. Utility Costs

If not reimbursed by tenants, owners can deduct the cost of utilities. This includes expenses for water, electricity, and gas, reducing the gross income from rental activities.

Maximizing Deductions on Rental Income

Home Office Deduction

Real estate professionals managing properties from home may be able to deduct expenses for the business use of their home. The space must be exclusively used for conducting business, and the deduction is calculated based on the percentage of the home dedicated to business activities.

Legal and Professional Fees

Fees paid to attorneys, accountants, and real estate advisors directly related to operating the rental business or managing the property are tax deductible. These include costs for eviction proceedings, collecting unpaid rents, and drafting leases.

Advertising Costs

Costs incurred while advertising the property to attract new tenants count as rental income expenses and are fully deductible. This helps minimize the gross income reported on your tax return by offsetting the rental income received.

Losses Due to Casualty or Theft

If a rental property suffers damage from a casualty such as a storm or vandalism, or from theft, the unreimbursed loss can be deducted. The amount deductible is dependent on insurance and how much of the loss is recovered.

Loan Origination Fees

For new loans on a property, loan origination fees and points paid to secure the mortgage can be deducted. These fees must be amortized over the life of the loan, impacting the annual income is taxable calculations.

Pass-Through Tax Deduction

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, rental business owners may qualify for a pass-through tax deduction, allowing them to deduct up to 20% of their net rental income or 2.5% of the initial cost of their rental property plus 25% of the amount paid for employee wages.

Further Reading: What is Rental Income Tax? Understand What Tax on Rental Income for Rental Real Estate Owners

Preventing Common Pitfalls in Rental Property Tax Filings

Navigating tax filings for rental properties can be complex, and real estate investors need to be meticulous to avoid costly errors. Here are strategies to help ensure compliance and optimize deductions while managing the tax situations of both residential and commercial real estate:

Maintain Detailed Records

Keep comprehensive records of all rental income and deductible expenses throughout the life of the property. Document the date, amount, and purpose of each transaction. This includes receipts, bank statements, invoices, and mileage logs if you deduct travel expenses. Proper documentation is necessary if the IRS considers an audit.

Understand IRS Requirements

  1. Reporting on Schedule E: All rental income and deductible expenses should be reported on Schedule E of your tax form. This includes income received from tenants and any allowable deductions for operating expenses directly related to your rental property.
  2. Understanding Operating Expenses: The IRS allows the deduction of operating expenses that are ordinary and necessary for managing, conserving, or maintaining the rental property. However, costs that improve the property must be depreciated and cannot be deducted in the year they are paid.
  3. Non-Deductible Expenses: It's important to know what you cannot deduct. Personal expenses, costs for property improvements, and any expenditures not directly related to the operation of the rental property are not deductible. The IRS treats these expenses strictly, and misreporting can lead to penalties.
  4. Property Taxes and State Deductions: Property taxes paid on rental real estate are fully deductible. Depending on your situation, you may also choose to deduct either state income taxes or sales taxes. This decision can significantly affect your tax liability, as it impacts the total amount of rental income taxed.
  5. IRS Guidelines and Compliance: The IRS provides specific guidelines on how rental income and expenses should be treated. For instance, IRS says that rental income must be included in your gross income unless it is specifically exempt under the tax code.

Avoid Co-mingling Funds

Keep separate bank accounts for your rental activities and personal finances. This helps clarify what expenses are solely related to the rental property when it's time to fill out your Schedule E form. Co-mingling funds can lead to errors in reporting and red flags for the IRS.

Properly Classify Rental Activities

The IRS differentiates between active income and passive income generated from real estate. Ensure you understand how your activities are classified, as this affects your ability to deduct losses against other types of income. This classification impacts how rental income is taxed and can influence your tax situation.

Here's an example of properly classifying rental activities:

Scenario: Sarah owns a single-family home that she rents out to a family for one year. During the year, Sarah also rents out a spare room in her own residence where she lives to a college student for 6 months.


  • Single-Family Home Rental: This is considered a rental real estate activity because it's a dwelling unit used by a tenant for living purposes and rented out for more than 15 days during the year.
  • Spare Room Rental: This could be classified in two ways depending on the details:
    • Rental Real Estate Activity: If Sarah provides exclusive use of the room, common areas of the house (kitchen, bathroom), and doesn't share the living space with the tenant, then it might be considered a rental real estate activity as well.
    • Dwelling Unit Not Used as a Dwelling Unit: If Sarah shares the common areas with the tenant and provides basic services like housekeeping or meals, then it wouldn't be considered a rental real estate activity. Instead, the income would be reported as miscellaneous income and expenses wouldn't be deductible as rental expenses.

Deduct Legitimate Travel Expenses

If you travel for your rental business, you can deduct these expenses. However, you must choose between deducting actual expenses or the standard mileage rate. Maintain a log of miles traveled, purpose of the trip, and receipts for other travel-related expenses. The IRS scrutinizes travel deductions, so thorough documentation is essential.

Plan for Tax Time

Don’t wait until tax time to organize your finances. Regularly review your records throughout the year to ensure that everything is accurate and complete. This proactive approach helps you avoid the end-of-year rush and reduces the likelihood of errors.

Key Points to Remember

  1. Depreciation Deduction: Property owners can depreciate the cost of residential properties over time, which is reported as a depreciation deduction on Schedule E. This method reduces the taxable income generated from rental properties by spreading the cost of the property over its useful life.
  2. Non-Deductible Expenses: Certain expenses associated with rental properties cannot be deducted. For example, personal expenses or costs for initial property repairs before renting out a property are not deductible. The IRS specifies which expenses are non-deductible in their guidelines.
  3. Reporting Rental Income: All rental income from investment properties must be reported on your tax returns. This income is taxed as ordinary income, and all associated expenses, such as property management fees, taxes, and insurance, can offset this income.
  4. Property Taxes: Property owners must pay taxes on rental income, which includes both state and local taxes where applicable. Property taxes paid on the rental property are deductible, helping to reduce the total taxable income.
  5. Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI): Rental income can affect your MAGI, which in turn can influence tax rates and eligibility for certain tax deductions and credits. Properly accounting for depreciation and expenses is crucial to accurately determine your MAGI.

How can Taxfyle help?

Finding an accountant to manage your bookkeeping and file taxes is a big decision. Luckily, you don't have to handle the search on your own.

At Taxfyle, we connect small businesses with licensed, experienced CPAs or EAs in the US. We handle the hard part of finding the right tax professional by matching you with a Pro who has the right experience to meet your unique needs and will manage your bookkeeping and file taxes for you.

Legal Disclaimer

Tickmark, Inc. and its affiliates do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, tax or accounting advice or recommendations. All information prepared on this site is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied on for legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your own legal, tax or accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. The content on this website is provided “as is;” no representations are made that the content is error-free.

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April 25, 2024


Antonio Del Cueto, CPA

Antonio Del Cueto, CPA


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