Archive for Rental Properties – Page 2

Use Cost Segregation to Raise Your Net Worth

Tax planning tips often have two priorities—defer your income and accelerate deductions. Would you like to know an easy way to do the second one? You can make a huge difference in depreciation deductions by using a strategy called cost segregation.

What Cost Segregation Means

Cost segregation allows you to separate a building you own into two components, land improvement and personal property. This lets you to realize deductions on the building more quickly. Cost segregation, essentially, speeds up the depreciation of your deductions. Faster depreciation means more money in your pocket now.

How does it work? Let’s assume you have several buildings depreciating on a 39-year plan. By segregating the costs, perhaps 30% of each of those properties could be depreciated in only 5 years, instead. You can implement a plan like this regardless of when you purchased the building. It could be a place you have already owned for years, a renovation you are undertaking, or even a new property you plan to purchase.

Here’s a break-down of how a property’s costs may be segregated:

  • 20% spent on equipment
  • 20% spent on land improvements
  • 60% spent on the building

You could just lump all the costs together and slowly watch 100% of your investment depreciate over a period of up to 39 years. Or, you could separate the costs out and see 20% depreciated in 5 years and another 20% in 15 years. By depreciating the components separately, you raise your net worth! Getting this time advantage makes a huge cash difference for you.

Why Timing is Important

What do all those numbers mean to you? If you have a property that cost you $1 million, tax law allows you to depreciate the equipment, land improvements, and building all the way to zero. So, your property has the potential to produce $1 million in depreciation. That means deductions for you on your tax return. By using cost segregation, you can use those deductions sooner, giving you an edge on tax benefits. Those tax benefits mean more cash available to you now for investing to your advantage.

You may be asking yourself if it can really make that much of a difference. Consider this example: you 1) earn 6% on your investments after taxes, 2) are in the 50% tax bracket, and 3) have $2 million to depreciate. You can use modified accelerated cost recovery system (MACRS) to depreciate it over 5 years, or you can depreciate it on a straight-line schedule of 39 years. Given those circumstances, in today’s dollars you would have:

  • $852,624 investment earnings from using MACRS depreciation
  • $382,427 investment earnings from using the straight-line depreciation

As you can see, that’s a huge difference!

How to Make Cost Segregation Work for You

The cost segregation strategy may not be right for every property owner every year. Here are a few tips for knowing when it will pay off:

  • When passive loss rules aren’t limiting your real-estate deductions, and you are able to benefit from the advantages of a quicker deduction (cost segregation generates a bigger loss on your tax return, which does you no good if your losses are limited);
  • When you are in a position to benefit from the value over time, that is, you intend to keep the building or continue renting it out for the long-term; and
  • When you will pay less for a cost segregation study than what the actual cash benefits will be.

Let’s put it into real numbers for you. You have, for example, a modified adjusted gross income of $200,000 and are subject to passive loss rules. If you have a $35,000 net loss on your rental properties but no passive income, then the $35,000 is a passive loss. It’s not deductible this year, and you will have to carry it forward to next year to see if you can offset it with passive income then.

Qualifying to deduct passive losses is the number one piece to the puzzle of cost segregation. No current deduction available for your losses means no time benefit to the value of your money. Additionally, the longer the amount of time you keep the building, the greater than financial benefit to you when using cost segregation. You may even be able to apply a 1031 exchange both to defer taxes and take your cost segregation benefits from one building to another, giving you some flexibility in the amount of time you hold onto a property. You’ve got plenty to gain, including:

  • Quicker depreciation
  • Section 179 expensing of personal assets that qualify
  • Reduced transfer taxes (because you separated the costs of personal property and real property)
  • Possible reduced property taxes
  • Asset replacement identification (to write off an undepreciated item)
  • A write-off for the cost segregation study fee[1]
  • Look-back depreciation if you use cost segregation on a building you already own and have not segregated before[2] (Make sure you time this right; the IRS allows one automatically approved accounting method change every 5 years, so you would benefit from completing all cost segregations at one time.[3])
  • Owe no user fee to the IRS[4] (most accounting method changes require payment of $2,700)
  • A one-time chance to make a large adjustment by claiming all of the previous years’ depreciation in a lump sum (IRS Form 3115)
  • The opportunity to increase your benefit from a property inheritance

Just be aware that every financial action carries risk. Personal property’s depreciation recapture tax can be higher than that of real property. You could be looking at up to 10 percent higher tax rates when you sell the property (depending upon your income level), so be sure to consider that when making your decision. Hint: As always, watch out for the alternative minimum tax (AMT). For personal property, you can use a 150 percent declining balance depreciation instead of the AMT’s preferred 200 percent declining balance.

As long as you meet these guidelines, cost segregation can be a terrific option for raising your net worth. You will need to hire professionals to perform the study (typically CPA’s and engineers), so check with your tax advisor about whether this option is a good fit before moving forward. If it looks like you will benefit, you can look for a team to perform the study at The American Society of Cost Segregation Professionals . The cost segregation professionals will take care of all the documentation you need for proving your segregation to the IRS.

  1. See “Cost Segregation Applied,” by Jay A Soled, JD, and Charles E. Falk, CPA, JD,Journal of Accountancy, August 2004. You can write off this cost as a 162 expense.
  2. Reg. Section 1.446-1T(e)(5)(iii).
  3. Revenue Procedure 2006-12
  4. Revenue Procedure 2012-39

Passive-Loss Rules Got You Trapped? You can Release Rental Property Tax Losses

If you’re feeling the pain from calculating your rental property loss deductions and finding that you can’t get some of that money back, you can thank lawmakers from 1986. That’s when the passive-loss rules came into being. These laws really complicated matters for taxpayers, but this article can help you to understand the ins and outs.

How Passive-Loss Rules Work

Basically, lawmakers have given you three possible tax buckets for any given taxable activity:

  1. Portfolio of stocks and bonds
  2. Active business activities involving material participation
  3. Passive-losses for rentals and other activities you don’t materially participate in

We’ll primarily look at the last one with this article. You’ll be happy to know that you do have some options for getting around the passive-loss problem. With the right knowledge, you can see tax benefits from your rental losses.

Before we delve into the solutions, let’s get an understanding of why you may have issues deducting your rental property losses. In order to get the tax benefit from your rental property loss, you (or you and your spouse) have to meet one of two requirements. To meet the first requirement, you must have passive income, such as from other properties or another source. Otherwise, you have to qualify as a real estate professional and actively participate in your rental property business.

Given those requirements, here’s an example of how your rental property losses can end up trapped and unable to be deducted. For the example, you have only one rental property (i.e. you have no other passive income), and you do not qualify as a real estate professional for tax purposes. If your property has produced a tax loss of $10,000 each year for the past six years, and your taxable income is $180,000, you can’t deduct any of those $60,000 in losses because you don’t meet either of the above requirements, and they can’t be deducted from either of the other income buckets.

Your Options

Let’s take a look at the three options you have for navigating these passive-loss rules. It turns out that even if you don’t meet the above requirements, you may have an opportunity to deduct your losses in certain scenarios.

  • Get Full Loss BenefitsTaxpayers who have a modified adjusted gross income of up to $100,000 can deduct all of their rental losses up to $25,000.[1] As your income rises above $100,000, your deduction is reduced by 50 cents per dollar, and once you reach a modified adjusted gross income level of $150,000, you lose this ability to claim losses easily.[2] For a practical example of how this works, let’s say your modified adjusted gross income from your business was $85,000, and you had rental losses of $21,000. In this case, you would be able to deduct the full $21,000.
  • Waiting for the BenefitRemember the $60,000 that were trapped in the example above? It turns out that you don’t just lose all chance of benefiting from those accumulated losses. They are still tax-deductible, but you have to find a way to release their ability to be deducted. In fact, here are four possible ways to get that money out of waiting:
  1. Change the rental property from passive to non-passive. If you’re the sole owner of your business, and you also own 100 percent of the rental property, you can simply convert half the rental property for business use (such as office space). Now 50 percent of you trapped losses can be released ($30,000) for use against the business income bucket[3]. If you operate as an S corporation, you’ll have to make a self-rental election.
  2. Produce additional passive income. If you produce, for example, $6,000 in passive income, you can release $6,000 of the trapped $60,000. Now, you just have to wait to release the other $54,000.
  3. Qualify as a real estate professional and prove your material participation in your real estate business. This option cannot release funds that have been waiting to be released because your qualification as a real estate professional is evaluated on a yearly basis. However, by qualifying, you are able to release your losses for the current tax year. So, the $10,000 for the year you qualify as a real estate professional will be offset against your business and portfolio income buckets. Other losses will have to be released using one of the other solutions.
  4. Sell your property. This option is further explained below.
  • Releasing the Full AmountIf you don’t meet the modified adjusted gross income threshold to take full advantage of loss deductions, there’s actually a very easy way to release the full $60,000 of our example losses. All you have to do is sell 100 percent of the property. When you sell to a third party, you can deduct the entire $60,000 at once. Here’s how you might handle this on your tax return:[4]
  1. You list your capital gain or loss on IRS Form 4797. It will be listed with your other Section 1231 gains and losses. A net gain will be taxed at the tax-favored rates of up to 15 percent, and a net loss will be limited to $3,000. But, don’t worry—anything over that amount can be carried forward.
  2. You also list any gain that is attributable to real-property depreciation (Form 4797). This will be taxed at the real-property depreciation recapture rate on Schedule D (up to 25 percent).
  3. You put the $10,000 loss for the current tax year on Schedule E.
  4. And, here’s the best part. You put the prior $60,000 of tax loss (in addition to the current year’s $10,000) on Schedule E, which finally ends up on your Form 1040 and the entire $70,000 offsets all your income.

To break it down for you, when you sell your property, you get to snub the passive-loss rules and pretend like they don’t even exist!

Passive-loss rules are frustrating, but know that you can eventually deduct your losses. You can even elect to group together multiple properties and use these exact same solutions. Getting the most benefit from your tax return is all about planning ahead. Now that you know how to get around the passive-loss restrictions, you can start planning for the techniques that work right for you and your properties.

  1. IRC Section 469(i).
  2. IRC Section 469(i)(3)(A).
  3. Reg. Sections 1.469-9(e)(4), Example (ii); 1.469-1(f)(4)(iii), Example 4.
  4. Instructions for Form 8582 (2011), revised Jun. 8, 2012, ps. 7-8.