If you’re considering getting into investing in rental property, one thing to consider—beyond all of the additional responsibilities you’ll take on by doing so—is how owning investment property in Chicago will affect your taxes. When you rent out apartments, condos, or houses, your taxes can become complicated. Repairs and upgrades may or may not be deductible, and any money you make on rent will need to be claimed on your taxes. Beyond that, what should you know about how owning investment properties affects your taxes? As a property management company in Chicago, we at Lofty do our best to help our clients succeed with their investments, and part of that means making sure they understand how investing in property will alter the way they do their taxes. This guide will help you prepare yourself for what’s to come when you start working with property investments.
Starting with the outside, remember the importance of curb appeal when your house goes on the market. It’s the first impression your potential buyers will have and the last thing they will see as they leave. Replace worn out welcome mats and sweep debris from the porch and driveway, when possible. Minimal landscaping with bushes and flowers can add a colorful fresh touch to any front yard. Think of your yard as a free advertising platform. Create a landscape that can bring positive attention and lure prospects inside.
A deep cleaning of the inside is also necessary in order to show off the best features of the interior and make prospects feel comfortable.
Is Everything You Collect from Tenants Taxable?
Not quite. Yes, rental income is taxable, but you’re allowed to reduce your rental income reporting by subtracting expenses that you incur from preparing your property for rental, as well as maintaining it. You’ll report the income as you would any other income—for instance, any rent you collect during 2016 would be claimed on your 2016 taxes. Even if you receive a check for January 2017 in December 2016, you would still claim it for 2016 earnings. If you receive a deposit for first and last month’s rent, it’ll be taxed in the same year, not as separate income in different years.
Security deposits, however, are not included in your taxable income, since you’ll be (theoretically) returning them to your tenants at the end of their lease. If the deposit is merely “last month’s rent,” it’s taxable since it’s just advance rent, but security deposits that are returned aren’t considered taxable income. If, at the end of a tenant’s lease, you keep (any or all of) their security deposit, you will then have to count it as taxable income.
What Expenses Can Be Deducted from Rental Income?
Luckily for investment property owners in Chicago, there are a number of deductible expenses that can save you money when it comes time to pay the tax man. Expenses such as advertising the unit, cleaning and maintenance, homeowner association dues/condo fees, insurance premiums, local property taxes, pest control, trash removal fees, repairs, utilities, and more are all counted as deductible expenses on investment properties. To learn more about all of the eligible deductions, it can be helpful to work with a professional CPA.
What If Your Property is Sometimes Owner-Occupied?
If you own a vacation home that you rent out for part of the year, you should be aware that, in order to deduct losses on the property, you can’t use the property for more than 14 days or 10 percent of the days the unit is rented during the year, whichever is greater. This also applies to a piece of property, say, a house, that you bought and lived in for a few years before renting out—if you still plan on occupying it for part of the year, you’ll need to work with your account to figure out exactly how your taxes will be calculated.
How Do I Report Rental Income and Activity on My Tax Return?
As an individual, you’ll have to report the rental income as, well, rental income. However, you don’t have to do it on your personal taxes. Most landlords establish LLCs, or limited liability companies, for their rental properties. LLCs offer liability protection so that you can keep your personal and business assets separated. This way, only that bank account, or that LLC, is liable for debts associated with the property. This is beneficial because then, your personal finances won’t be affected by problems with your rentals. LLCs also offer tax benefits, by allowing you to pass tax consequences of your rental properties on to your personal taxes—in other words, you won’t have to deal with corporate ownership taxation. Your personal finances will be safe, and you won’t be double-taxed on your properties.
Need Help With Your Rental Properties?
Getting help with the transition into investment property ownership is something a lot of people seek out, and for good reason. Going it alone can be stressful and frustrating, and it can be beneficial to have someone on your side to explain the various processes of investing in property. At Lofty, we understand the intricacies and difficulties that new landlords face when they get started with rental properties. Our goal is to make your life easier—to help you sort through all of the responsibilities so that you can live the life you deserve, rather than spending countless hours on paperwork, apartment maintenance, and other busy work. If you need help with getting started on owning Chicago investment property, or you have questions about how getting started with investing will change your taxes, feel free to contact us anytime—we’re here to help!