As a landlord, it is important to have a good understanding of rental property accounting. This will help you make sound financial decisions for your business and maximize your profits. Observing property accounting best practices will also prevent legal issues from arising.
While the particulars of rental property accounting may vary slightly depending on your location and the type of property you own, there are some general tips that all landlords should follow.
Hire an Accountant from the Start
You don’t need to hire an accountant on retainer, but having one to guide you while you’re getting started can be helpful. An accountant can help you set up your bookkeeping system, choose the right accounting software, and understand tax laws that apply to landlords and Boulder property management in general.
It’s also a good idea to hire a tax attorney at this point. Together with a professional accountant, they will be able to walk you through the ins and outs of rental property taxation, which can be quite complicated.
If you decide not to hire an accountant, make sure you educate yourself on rental property accounting basics. This way, you can be sure that your finances are being managed correctly.
Understand the Difference Between Personal and Business Expenses
One of the most important aspects of rental property accounting is understanding the difference between personal and business expenses. This is where many first-time landlords make expensive mistakes.
For example, let’s say you decide to buy a new car for your business. You can deduct the cost of the car from your taxes, but only if you use it for business purposes. If you use it for personal errands or to commute to and from work, you can’t deduct the cost.
The same goes for repairs and renovations to your rental property. You can only deduct expenses that are necessary to keep the property in good condition and habitable for tenants. Expenses for upgrades or improvements, such as a new kitchen or bathroom, can’t be deducted.
It’s quite a complicated topic, and the IRS explains deductible business expenses in more detail here.
Create a Business Plan for Your Rental Property
Before you start renting out property, it is crucial that you create a business plan. This document will outline your business goals, strategies, and expected financial performance.
Your business plan should take into account all of the costs associated with owning and operating a rental property, such as mortgage payments, insurance, repairs and maintenance, and property taxes. It should also include a buffer for vacancy rates and other unexpected expenses.
Determine Your Tax Status
Landlords have several options for filing their taxes. For instance, they can file as individuals or they can set up their rental properties as businesses.
If you choose to file your rental property taxes as an individual, you will report your rental income and expenses on Schedule E of your personal tax return. This is the simplest option for landlords with just a few properties.
However, if you have multiple properties or employees, it may be more beneficial to set up your rental business as a corporation or partnership. This way, you can shield some of your personal assets from liability. You will also be able to take advantage of business tax deductions.
Track Rental Income and Expenses Carefully
It is important to keep meticulous records of all income and expenses related to your rental property. This includes everything from mortgage payments and insurance premiums to advertising costs and repair bills.
Organizing your records can be simple or complicated, depending on the size of your business. Some landlords prefer to keep everything in a physical filing system, while others use accounting software to track their finances.
Whichever method you choose, make sure you update your records regularly and back them up in case of a computer crash or other unforeseen event.
Claim Rental Property Deductions
As a landlord, you are entitled to claim certain deductions on your taxes. These deductions can help offset the costs of owning and operating a rental property, and they can also lower your tax bill.
Some common rental property deductions include mortgage interest, property taxes, insurance premiums, repair and maintenance expenses, and depreciation.
Be sure to keep receipts and other documentation for all of your expenses so that you can support your deductions when you file your taxes.
Report Your Rental Activities on Your Tax Return
If you rent out property, you are required to report your rental income and expenses on your tax return. This is true even if you only rent out property for a part of the year or if you lose money on the deal.
Failure to report rental income can result in hefty fines from the IRS. So if you’re not sure how to properly report your rental activities, it’s best to seek professional help from an accountant or tax attorney.
To sum it up, property accounting for landlords is a complex task that requires careful planning and record-keeping. Seeking professional help from accountants, tax lawyers, and even property management companies can help you brush up on the process and avoid any costly mistakes. Make sure to study and explore everything that this process entails before taking on the role of landlord.