Do you find that your required minimum distributions (RMDs) from qualified plans and IRAs are providing unneeded income and a high tax bill? Or, are you afraid that the government’s RMD requirements will leave too little in your retirement plan for your later years? If you answered yes to either of these, good news! You can now use a qualified longevity annuity contract (QLAC) to reduce your RMDs and extend the life of your retirement distributions.
The government allows individuals to purchase QLACs with their retirement funds, thus reducing the value of those funds (subject to the RMD rules) and in turn reducing the funds’ annual RMDs.
A QLAC is a deferred-income annuity that begins at an advanced age and that meets the stringent limitations included in the tax regulations. One benefit of a retirement-planning strategy involving QLACs is that they provide a form of longevity insurance, allowing taxpayers to use part of their retirement savings to buy an annuity that helps protect them from outliving their assets.
The tax-planning benefits of QLACs are twofold:
- Because the QLAC is purchased using funds from a qualified retirement plan or IRA, that plan’s year-end balance (value) is lowered. This causes the RMDs for future years to be less than they otherwise would be, as the RMD is determined by dividing the account balance (from 12/31 of the prior year) by an annuity factor that is based on the retiree’s age.
Example: Jack is age 74, and the annuity table lists his remaining distribution period as 23.8 years. The balance of his IRA account on 12/31/2016 is $400,000. Thus, his RMD for 2017 would be $16,807 ($400,000 / 23.8). However, if Jack had purchased a $100,000 QLAC with his IRA funds during 2016, his balance would have been $300,000, and his 2017 RMD would be $12,605 ($300,000 / 23.8). By purchasing the $100,000 QLAC, Jack would have reduced his RMD for 2016 by $4,202 ($16,807 – $12,605). This reduction would continue for all future years. Later, the $100,000 QLAC would provide retirement benefits, likely beginning when Jack reaches age 85.
(2) Tax on the annuity will be deferred until payments commence under the annuity contract.
A deferred-income annuity must meet a number of requirements to be treated as a QLAC, including the following:
Limitation on premiums – When buying a QLAC, a taxpayer can use up to the lesser of $125,000 or 25% of his or her total non-Roth IRA balances. The dollar limitation applies to the sum of the premiums paid on all QLAC contracts.
When distributions must commence – Distributions under a QLAC must commence by a specified annuity starting date, which is no later than the first day of the month after the taxpayer’s 85th birthday.
For additional details about how QLACs might fit into your retirement strategy, please give Dagley & Co. a call.
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For the most part, an individual’s travel expenses from attending conventions or seminars can be deducted (provided that attendance benefits the taxpayer’s trade or business). But, the following travel expenses cannot be deducted: family members’ travel expenses, or expenses from attending investment, political, social or other types of meetings not related to the taxpayer’s trade or business. The entire cost of transportation and lodging, plus 50% of the meal expenses, is deductible for meetings held within the North American area. For a detailed list of areas within North America, please consult IRS Publication 463.
Meetings Outside the North American Area – Deducting travel expenses for a convention or meeting outside the North American area has requirements:
- The meeting must be directly related to the taxpayer’s trade or business (whereas meetings within the North American area need only benefit the taxpayer’s trade or business), and
- It must be reasonable to hold the meeting outside the North American area. There is no specific definition of “reasonable” for this purpose, which places the burden of proof on the taxpayer. Considerations include the meeting’s purpose and activities and the location of the meeting sponsors’ homes.
Even if the above requirements are met, the amount of deduction allowed depends upon the primary purpose of the trip and on the time spent on nonbusiness activities:
(1) If the entire time is devoted to business, all ordinary and necessary travel expenses are deductible.
(2) If the travel is primarily for vacation and only a few hours are spent attending professional seminars, none of the expenses incurred in traveling to and from the business location are deductible.
(3) If, during a business trip, personal activities take place at, near or beyond the business destination, then the expenses incurred in traveling to and from the business location have to be appropriately allocated between the business and nonbusiness expenses.
(4) If the travel is for a period of one week or less, or if less than 25% of the total time is spent on nonbusiness activities (on a day-by-day basis), then the travel deductions are treated the same as they would be for travel within the North American area.
Meetings Held On Cruise Ships – When a convention or meeting is held on a cruise ship and is directly related to a taxpayer’s trade or business, the taxpayer is limited to $2,000 per year in deductions for expenses from attending such conventions, seminars, or similar meetings. All ships that sail are considered cruise ships. The following rules also apply:
- The cruise ship must be registered in the United States.
- All of the cruise ship’s ports of call must be in the United States or its possessions.
If you have questions related to the deductibility of expenses from conventions and meetings or from foreign travel, please give Dagley & Co. a call.
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When raising money through Internet crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe, Kickstarter or Indiegogo, it is important to understand the “taxability” of the money raised. Whether the money raised is taxable depends upon the purpose of the fundraising campaign. For example, fees can range from 5 to 9% depending on the site.
Gifts – When an entity raises funds for its own benefit and the contributions are made out of detached generosity (and not because of any moral or legal duty or the incentive of anticipated economic benefit), the contributions are considered tax-free gifts to the recipient.
On the other hand, the contributor is subject to the gift tax rules if he or she contributes more than $14,000 to a particular fundraising effort that benefits one individual; the contributor is then liable to file a gift tax return. Unfortunately, regardless of the need, gifts to individuals are never tax deductible.
The “gift tax trap” occurs when an individual establishes a crowdfunding account to help someone else in need (whom we’ll call the beneficiary) and takes possession of the funds before passing the money on to the beneficiary. Because the fundraiser takes possession of the funds, the contributions are treated as a tax-free gift to the fundraiser. However, when the fundraiser passes the money on to the beneficiary, the money then is treated as a gift from the fundraiser to the beneficiary; if the amount is over $14,000, the fundraiser is required to file a gift tax return and to reduce his or her lifetime gift and estate tax exemption. Some crowdfunding sites allow the fundraiser to designate a beneficiary so that the beneficiary has direct access to the funds.
Charitable Gifts – Even if the funds are being raised for a qualified charity, the contributors cannot deduct the donations as charitable contributions without proper documentation. Taxpayers cannot deduct cash contributions, regardless of the amount, unless they can document the contributions in one of the following ways:
- Contribution Less Than $250: To claim a deduction for a contribution of less than $250, the taxpayer must have a cancelled check, a bank or credit card statement, or a letter from the qualified organization; this proof must show the name of the organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution.
- Cash contributions of $250 or More – To claim a deduction for a contribution of $250 or more, the taxpayer must have a written acknowledgment of the contribution from the qualified organization; this acknowledgment must include the following details:
- The amount of cash contributed;
- Whether the qualified organization gave the taxpayer goods or services (other than certain token items and membership benefits) as a result of the contribution, along with a description and good-faith estimate of the value of those goods or services (other than intangible religious benefits); and
- A statement that the only benefit received was an intangible religious benefit, if that was the case.
Thus, if the contributor is to claim a charitable deduction for the cash donation, some means of providing the contributor with a receipt must be established.
Business Ventures – When raising money for business projects, two issues must be contended with: the taxability of the money raised and the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations that come into play if the contributor is given an ownership interest in the venture.
- No Business Interest Given – This applies when the fundraiser only provides nominal gifts, such as products from the business, coffee cups, or T-shirts; the money raised is taxable to the fundraiser.
- Business Interest Provided – This applies when the fundraiser provides the contributor with partial business ownership in the form of stock or a partnership interest; the money raised is treated as a capital contribution and is not taxable to the fundraiser. (The amount contributed becomes the contributor’s tax basis in the investment.) When the fundraiser is selling business ownership, the resulting sales must comply with SEC regulations, which generally require any such offering to be registered with the SEC. However, the SEC regulations were modified in 2012 to carve out a special exemption for crowdfunding:
- Fundraising Maximum – The maximum amount a business can raise without registering its offering with the SEC in a 12-month period is $1 million. Non-U.S. companies, businesses without a business plan, firms that report under the Exchange Act, certain investment companies, and companies that have failed to meet their reporting responsibilities may not participate.
- Contributor Maximum – The amount an individual can invest through crowdfunding in any 12-month period is limited:
- If the individual’s annual income or net worth is less than $100,000, his or her equity investment through crowdfunding is limited to the greater of $2,000 or 5% of the investor’s annual net worth.
- If the individual’s annual income or net worth is at least $100,000, his or her investment via crowdfunding is limited to 10% of the investor’s net worth or annual income, whichever is less, up to an aggregate limit of $100,000.
If you have questions about crowdfunding-related tax issues, please give Dagley & Co. a call.
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“Do I have to file a tax return?” is a question heard a lot during this time of year. The answer to this popular question is a lot more complicated than many would think. To understand, one must realize the difference between being required to file a tax return vs. the benefit of filing a tax return even when it’s not required to file. We’ve put together a comprehensive description for your better understating:
When individuals are required to file-
- Generally, individuals are required to file a return if their income exceeds their filing threshold, as shown in the table below. The filing thresholds are the sum of the standard deduction for individual(s) and the personal exemption for the taxpayer and spouse (if any).
- Taxpayers are required to file if they have net self-employment income in excess of $400, since they are required to file self-employment taxes (the equivalent to payroll taxes for an employee) when their net self-employment income exceeds $400.
- Taxpayers are also required to file when they are required to repay a credit or benefit. For example, if a taxpayer acquired health insurance through a government marketplace and received advanced premium tax credit (APTC) they are required to file a return whether or not they are otherwise required to file. A return is required in order to reconcile the APTC with the premium tax credit they entitled based upon their household income for the year. So generally if you receive a 1095-A you are required to file.
- Filing is also required when a taxpayer owes a penalty, even though the taxpayer’s income is below the filing threshold. This can occur, for example, when a taxpayer has an IRA 6% early withdrawal penalty or the 50% penalty for not taking a required IRA distribution.
2016 – Filing Thresholds
Filing Status Age Threshold
Single Under Age 65 $10,350
Age 65 or Older 11,900
Married Filing Jointly Both Spouses Under 65 $20,700
One Spouse 65 or Older 21,950
Both Spouses 65 or Older 23,200
Married Filing Separate Any Age 4,050
Head of Household Under 65 $13,350
65 or Older 14,900
Qualifying Widow(er) Under 65 $16,650
with Dependent Child 65 or Older 17,900
When it is beneficial for individuals to file-
There are a number of benefits available when filing a tax return that can produce refunds even for a taxpayer who is not required to file:
- Withholding refund – A substantial number of taxpayers fail to file their return even when the tax they owe is less than their prepayments, such as payroll withholding, estimates, or a prior over-payment. The only way to recover the excess is to file a return.
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – If you worked and did not make a lot of money, you may qualify for the EITC. The EITC is a refundable tax credit, which means you could qualify for a tax refund. The refund could be as high as several thousand dollars even when you are not required to file.
- Additional Child Tax Credit – This refundable credit may be available to you if you have at least one qualifying child.
- American Opportunity Credit – The maximum for this credit for college tuition paid per student is $2,500, and the first four years of post-secondary education qualify. Up to 40% of the credit is refundable when you have no tax liability, even if you are not required to file.
- Premium Tax Credit – Lower-income families are entitled to a refundable tax credit to supplement the cost of health insurance purchased through a government Marketplace. To the extent the credit is greater than the supplement provided by the Marketplace, it is refundable even if there is no other reason to file.
For more information about filing requirements and your eligibility to receive tax credits, please contact Dagley & Co. for more information. We recommend not procrastinating, no matter what your stance on filing may be!
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Miss a 60-day rollover? According to the IRA, the acceptable reasons for missing include: An error was committed by the financial institution, the distribution check was misplaced and never cashed, the distribution was mistakenly deposited into an account that the taxpayer thought was an eligible retirement plan, the taxpayer’s principal residence was severely damaged, a member of the taxpayer’s family died, the taxpayer or a member of the taxpayer’s family was seriously ill, the taxpayer was incarcerated, restrictions were imposed by a foreign country, a postal error occurred, or the distribution was made on account of an IRS levy, and the proceeds of the levy have been returned to the taxpayer. If you, or someone you know, fall into any of these situations, as a taxpayer, you can take a distribution from an IRA or other qualified retirement plan and if they roll it over within 60 days they can avoid taxation on the distributed amount.
Financial Institution Error – Where the failure to meet the deadline is due to financial institution error, the IRS provides an automatic waiver.
Private Letter Ruling (PLR) – Where automatic waiver does not apply, and the taxpayer feels there is a legitimate reason for missing the 60-day rollover requirement, the taxpayer can request relief though a PLR where the IRS reviews the reason for missing the 60-day rollover period and either allows or denies relief from the 60-day requirement. However, the IRS will charge the taxpayer requesting the PLR a user fee of $10,000, which negates the purpose of a PLR except in cases of very large rollover amounts.
New Self-Certification Procedure – The IRS recently announced a new certification procedure that allows a taxpayer who misses the 60-day time limit for properly rolling the amount into another retirement plan or IRA to make a written certification to a plan administrator or an IRA trustee that a contribution satisfies one of the acceptable reasons, and therefore is eligible for a waiver of the 60-day rule.
Please remember: This provision does not apply to required minimum distributions for taxpayers who are 70.5 years of age and over.). Also, taxpayers are limited to one IRA-to-IRA rollover per year.
The rollover must be completed as soon as practicable after the reason(s) listed above no longer prevent the taxpayer from making the contribution. This requirement is deemed to be satisfied if the contribution is made within 30 days after the reason(s) no longer prevent the taxpayer from making the contribution.
This procedure does not apply where the IRS previously denied a waiver request for the same missed rollover.
The IRS provides a model letter that can be used to make the self-certification. Please call Dagley & Co. if you need a copy of the letter, have questions, or need assistance related to a missed 60-day rollover.
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Are you a high-income taxpayer? Would like to contribute to a Roth IRA but cannot because of income limitations? There is a work-around that will allow you to fund a Roth IRA.
High-income taxpayers are limited in the annual amount they can contribute to a Roth IRA. In 2016, the allowable contribution phases out for joint-filing taxpayers with an AGI between $184,000 and $194,000 (or an AGI between $0 and $9,999 for married taxpayers filing separately). For unmarried taxpayers, the phase-out is between $117,000 and $132,000. Once the upper end of the range is reached, no contribution is allowed for the year.
However, those AGI limitations can be circumvented by what is frequently referred to as a back-door Roth IRA. Here is how a back-door Roth IRA works:
- First, you contribute to a traditional IRA. For higher-income taxpayers who participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, a traditional IRA is allowed but is not deductible. Even if all or some portion is deductible, the contribution can be designated as not deductible.
- Then, since the law allows an individual to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA without any income limitations, you now convert the non-deductible Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Since the Traditional IRA was non-deductible, the only tax related to the conversion would be on any appreciation in value of the Traditional IRA before the conversion is completed.
Potential Pitfall – There is a potential pitfall to the back-door Roth IRA that is often overlooked by investment counselors and taxpayers alike that could result in an unexpected taxable event upon conversion. For distribution or conversion purposes, all of your IRAs (except Roth IRAs) are considered as one account and any distribution or converted amounts are deemed taken ratably from the deductible and non-deductible portions of the traditional IRA, and the portion that comes from the deductible contributions would be taxable.
This may or not may affect your decision to use the back-door Roth IRA method but does need to be considered prior to making the conversion.
There is a possible, although complicated, solution. Taxpayers are allowed to roll over or make a trustee-to-trustee transfer of IRA funds into employer qualified plans if the employer’s plan permits. If the rollover or transfer to the qualified plan is permitted, such rollovers or transfers are limited to the taxable portion of the IRA account, thus leaving behind the non-taxable contributions, which can then be converted to a Roth IRA without any taxability.
Please call Dagley & Co. if you need assistance with your Roth IRA strategies or need assistance in planning traditional-to-Roth IRA conversions.
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Are you a baby boomer? If so, have you been stashing away tax-deferred retirement savings? If so, take note… It is getting close to the time to start withdrawing funds from those accounts and, of course, paying taxes on those withdrawals. (This includes distributions from traditional IRAs and 401(k)s)
The same Internal Revenue Code that allowed you to save tax dollars when you contributed to those tax-deferred retirement plans also generally requires you to begin withdrawals on the year you reach age 70½. These distributions are called required minimum distributions (RMDs) and are based on annuity tables. Generally, most individuals will utilize the single life table, but the joint life annuity tables are used if the individual’s spouse is more than 10 years younger.
Keep in mind that you can always take as much as you wish from your tax-deferred retirement accounts, but you must take the RMD amount each year, beginning with the year you turn age 70½, or you will be subject to a very severe penalty, which we will discuss later. One exception is that you can delay the payout for the year you become 70½ until no later than April 1 of the following year. However, since you will also need to make an RMD for that following year, you will end up with two years’ worth of distributions being taxed in one year if you use the delayed distribution option.
The following is an abbreviated single life table. The actual table goes to age 111.
Age 70 71 72 73 74 75 Distribution Period (Years) 27.4 26.5 25.6 24.7 23.8 22.9
Required Minimum Distribution – To determine an RMD, first determine the distribution period (life expectancy) based on your current age. So, for the year you turn 70½, the distribution period would be 27.4 years. Next, determine the retirement account’s balance on December 31 of the prior year. The account balance divided by the distribution period equals the RMD. For example, say you will turn age 70½ in 2016 and your tax-deferred retirement account had a balance of $500,000 on December 31, 2015. Your 2016 RMD would be $18,248 ($500,000/27.4).
Failure to Take an RMD Penalty – When the full amount of an RMD is not taken, the penalty is 50% of the amount you didn’t withdraw. Luckily, the IRS is very lenient on this penalty and will generally waive it when an under-distribution is inadvertent or due to ignorance of the law, provided that the RMD amounts are made up as soon as possible once the error is discovered. Avoid RMD problems by having your account custodian or trustee determine the RMD annually and then transfer the distribution directly to your checking, savings or non-retirement plan brokerage account.
Multiple Retirement Accounts – When you have multiple accounts, the question often is, “Which account should I take the RMD from?” All traditional IRAs are treated as one for distribution purposes. So, you can take the RMD for the IRA accounts from any combination of the accounts that you choose. However, that may cause a problem with a trustee of the IRA account(s) from which you didn’t take a distribution, who may think you didn’t take your RMD for the year. So, it is less problematic to take a distribution from each account.
You may wish to simplify the RMD distributions by transferring all of your traditional IRAs into one account, if you have several traditional IRAs. This is best done by having the trustees make direct transfers to the target IRA, rather than you receiving the distributions and then rolling over the funds, since you are only allowed one IRA rollover each twelve months (trustee-to-trustee transfers don’t count as rollovers). Note that spouses must maintain their accounts separately and cannot combine their accounts with yours when figuring RMDs.
If you have a 401(k) account, the RMD for it must be figured separately from any IRA accounts you also have. And, if you have multiple 401(k)s, each 401(k) account’s RMD is figured separately from those of your other 401(k) plans.
Non-Taxable Amounts – If your tax deduction for the contribution was limited when you made your traditional IRA contribution because you were a high-income taxpayer, you would have created a non-taxable basis in your IRA. If this is true, then that non-taxable basis is recovered tax-free in proportion to your distribution.
Roth Conversions – The ability of individuals to convert amounts of their traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs gives rise to some possible tax-saving moves in the years leading up to the RMD age. Things to consider are:
- Is you tax bracket lower now than it will be after retirement? If so, you might consider converting some portion of your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA now. You will pay tax on the traditional IRA distribution in the year of the conversion, but when you withdraw it from the Roth IRA, it will be tax-free.
- If you have a low-income year for some reason, and if you are age 59½ or older, it might be appropriate to take a distribution in that year and pay little or no tax. You won’t get a credit against a future RMD by doing so but you will be lowering the balance in the account for the eventual calculation of RMDs.
The following strategies require careful planning:
Effect on Taxable Income Once RMDs Start – Your taxable income may be increased by more than just the amount of the RMD. Adding your RMD to your income that is already taxed will increase your adjusted gross income (AGI); as a result, the amount of your Social Security benefits that is taxed may also increase. In addition, since the AGI is the amount on which the phaseout or reduction of many tax deductions is based, you may also find that you are getting less tax benefit from such items as medical expenses, charitable contributions, and investment-related expenses – all of which means your tax bill will go up by more than it otherwise would by just adding the RMD to your income.
Plan for Additional Withholding or Estimated Tax – Once you start taking distributions from your IRA or 401(k), and to avoid a potential underpayment of tax penalty, you will likely need to increase your tax prepayments, either by having federal (and possibly state) income taxes withheld from the distributions or by making quarterly estimated tax payments. If you already make estimated tax payments, you may need to increase the installment amounts.
If You Don’t Need the RMD – If you simply don’t need the retirement distribution, after reaching age 70½, you can donate up to $100,000 of IRA funds per year to a qualified charity without having to include the distribution in your income, and it will still count towards your RMD. If you are married and your spouse has an IRA and is also 70½ or older, he or she may also make a charitable IRA distribution of up to $100,000. So, if you are someone who gives substantial amounts to charity each year, this is a distribution strategy you may want to consider after reaching RMD age. CAUTION: To qualify under this provision, the funds must be directly transferred from the IRA account to the charity.
RMD issues can be quite complicated. We believe it is highly suggested that you consult Dagley & Co. for pre-RMD planning, determining the correct RMD amounts, and analyzing your withholding and/or estimated tax obligations. Give us a call at (202) 417-6640.
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Hobbies and Income Tax
Millions of U.S. taxpayers engage in hobbies such as collecting coins or stamps, refurbishing old cars, crafting, painting or breeding horses.
Some hobbies will actually generate income, or even evolve into businesses. The tax treatment of hobbies with income is quite different than that of a trade or business, and making the distinction can be rather complicated. The main issue here is that the IRS does not want taxpayers to write off hobby expenses under the guise of trade or businesses expenses.
The first question to ask yourself is whether the activity is a hobby, trade or business. The tax law doesn’t really provide a bright-line definition of the term “trade or business,” probably because no single definition will apply in all cases. But certainly, to be considered a trade or business, an activity must be motivated by the taxpayer’s profit motive, even if that motivation is unrealistic. Along with a profit motive, the taxpayer must carry on some kind of economic activity.
Factors to determine profit motive – The IRS uses a series of factors to determine whether an activity is for profit. No one factor is decisive, but all of them must be considered together in making the determination.
- Is the activity carried out in a businesslike manner?
- How much time and effort does the taxpayer spend on the activity?
- Does the taxpayer depend on the activity as a source of income?
- Are losses from the activity the result of sources beyond the taxpayer’s control?
- Has the taxpayer changed business methods in attempts to improve profitability?
- What is the taxpayer’s expertise in the field?
- What success has the taxpayer had in similar operations?
- What is the possibility of profit?
- Will there be a possibility of profit from asset appreciation?
Presumption of profit motive – There is a presumption that a taxpayer has a profit motive if an activity shows a profit for any three or more years during a period of five consecutive years. However, if the activity involves breeding, training, showing or racing horses, the period is two out of seven consecutive years. An activity that is reported on a tax return as a business but has had year after year of losses and no gains is likely to eventually come under scrutiny by the IRS.
Tax Treatment of Hobbies – While trades or businesses can have losses without restriction, if the activity is deemed to be a hobby, then special rules – frequently referred to as “hobby loss” rules – apply. Under these rules, any income from the hobby is reported on the face of the tax return, and the expenses are only deductible if a taxpayer itemizes their deductions on Schedule A. In addition, hobby expenses are limited by category as follows:
Category 1: This category includes deductions for home mortgage interest, taxes, and casualty losses. They are reported on the appropriate lines of Schedule A as they would be if no hobby activity existed.
Category 2: Deductions that don’t result in an adjustment to the basis of property are allowed next, but only to the extent that gross income from the activity is greater than the deductions under Category 1. Most expenses that a business would incur, such as those for advertising, insurance premiums, interest, utilities, wages, etc., belong in this category.
Category 3: Business deductions that decrease the basis of property are allowed last, but only to the extent that the gross income from the activity is more than the deductions under the first two categories. The deductions for depreciation and amortization belong in this category.
Additional limit – Individuals must claim the amounts in categories (2) and (3) as miscellaneous deductions on Schedule A, which are subject to the 2% AGI reduction; as a result, they are not deductible for alternative minimum tax purposes.
Hobby loss rules can be complicated. Need assistance determining whether your activity qualifies as trade or business, or whether it is subject to the hobby loss rules? Give Dagley & Co. a call at (202) 417-6640 or email at email@example.com.
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Many people are using rental agents or online rental services, such as Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway, that match property owners with prospective renters. If you are one of these people who rents, then some special tax rules may apply to you.
These special (and sometimes complex) taxation rules can make the rents that you charge tax-free. However, other situations may force your rental income and expenses to be treated as a business reported on a Schedule C, as opposed to a rental activity reported on Schedule E.
The following is a synopsis of the rules governing short-term rentals.
Rented for Fewer than 15 Days During the Year – When a property is rented for fewer than 15 days during the tax year, the rental income is not reportable, and the expenses associated with that rental are not deductible. Interest and property taxes are not prorated, and the full amounts of the qualified mortgage interest and property taxes are reported as itemized deductions (as usual) on the taxpayer’s Schedule A.
The 7-Day and 30-Day Rules – Rentals are generally passive activities. However, an activity is not treated as a rental if either of these statements applies:
A. The average customer use of the property is for 7 days or fewer – or for 30 days or fewer if the owner (or someone on the owner’s behalf) provides significant personal services.
B. The owner (or someone on the owner’s behalf) provides extraordinary personal services without regard to the property’s average period of customer use.
If the activity is not treated as a rental, then it will be treated as a trade or business, and the income and expenses, including prorated interest and taxes, will be reported on Schedule C. IRS Publication 527 states: “If you provide substantial services that are primarily for your tenant’s convenience, such as regular cleaning, changing linen, or maid service, you report your rental income and expenses on Schedule C.” Substantial services do not include the furnishing of heat and light, the cleaning of public areas, the collecting of trash, and such.
Exception to the 30-Day Rule – If the personal services provided are similar to those that generally are provided in connection with long-term rentals of high-grade commercial or residential real property (such as public area cleaning and trash collection), and if the rental also includes maid and linen services that cost less than 10% of the rental fee, then the personal services are neither significant nor extraordinary for the purposes of the 30-day rule.
Profits & Losses on Schedule C – Profit from a rental activity is not subject to self-employment tax, but a profitable rental activity that is reported as a business on Schedule C is subject to this tax. A loss from this type of activity is still treated as a passive-activity loss unless the taxpayer meets the material participation test – generally, providing 500 or more hours of personal services during the year or qualifying as a real estate professional. Losses from passive activities are deductible only up to the passive income amount, but unused losses can be carried forward to future years. A special allowance for real estate rental activities with active participation permits a loss against non passive income of up to $25,000 – phasing out when modified adjusted gross income is between $100K and $150K. However, this allowance does NOT apply when the activity is reported on Schedule C.
These rules can be complicated; please call or email Dagley & Co., CPA at (202) 417-6640 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We can determine how they apply to your circumstances and what you can do to minimize tax liability and maximize tax benefits from your rentals.
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