Is real estate still a good investment? As a landlord dealing with sometimes rowdy tenants or unexpected repairs, you may wonder whether or not it’s still worth it. Despite these headaches and the ongoing doom and gloom reported about real estate prices, owning investment real estate continues to provide a number of benefits. Buying a property offers a number of favorable tax benefits, a way to generate income, diversify a personal investment allocation and in some cases have a tenant pay for your personal housing expenses.
As an investment property owner, you can deduct a host of expenses connected with operating the property including mortgage interest, property taxes, utilities and repairs. Aside from actual expenses incurred, property owners also benefit from a valuable non-cash expense: depreciation.
Losses generated from rental activities are typically considered to be “passive activity losses” with an exception for real estate professional. These losses can then be used to offset other passive income from another real estate investment or another type of passive investment such as in a private limited partnership. Disallowed passive activity losses and credits are deferred until there is passive income generated or the property is disposed in a taxable transaction.
Like all good rules there are exceptions. Although “passive activity” losses by rule must be used to offset other passive activity income, there are additional tax benefits available to those who are low- or middle income earning households.
For those who have adjusted gross income below $100,000 and “actively participate” in the management of the rental property, a real estate investor may use up to $25,000 in passive activity losses to offset non-passive income like income from wages or a business.
This remains one of the few tax shelters available to moderate income taxpayers. And like any other gift from the IRS, it comes with certain strings attached. In this case, the ability to use this passive activity loss exception phases out above certain income thresholds starting at $100,000 of AGI reduced $1 for every $2 of income above the threshold until eliminated at $150,000 AGI.
The key to “active participation” generally means involvement in management decisions about the property. Choosing the kind of paint or wallpaper? Reviewing bids for different contractors? Collecting the rent? All may be considered part of the active participation of the property owner.
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