In the world of real estate taxes, getting things right comes down to filing the right forms and picking the right category for your tax returns. Understanding the difference between passive and nonpassive real estate reporting is the key to knowing how much paperwork you'll need to do. While it might sound like a confusing maze, with the right guidance, you can confidently fill out the necessary forms, pick the best tax category, and report your real estate investments accurately. Read on as we explore the fascinating world of real estate taxes where clarity and expertise help you make the most of your finances.


  • There is a range of factors that affect the tax including high compliance costs (e.g., creating random LLCs (limited liability companies), not optimizing your real estate portfolio, not doing cost seg in the right year, and such.
  • Making common mistakes such as not filing in the state where you own the asset or adjusting the depreciation for the state that does not follow bonus depreciation.
  • The tax treatment varies for passive and non-passive investors. Passive investors typically contribute capital but do not materially participate in investment activities, while non-passive investors are actively involved.
  • Long-term rentals provide stable income but are subject to limitations on losses. Short-term rentals have higher income potential but require more effort. The "7-dayrule" can impact tax deductions for short-term rentals.

Getting your taxes right isn't just about peace of mind; it's your safeguard in case of an audit. It's about making sure your report is accurate and properly filed. Compliance isn't just a checkbox; it's your shield against potential penalties and legal troubles. In this article, we'll explore property types, factors that can impact your taxes, and the common challenges you might face when doing your taxes.

When it comes to your annual tax return, don't forget to report any rental income from your real estate properties. Rental income includes all the money you make from renting out your property, like rent, fees, and any other payments. Proper reporting is your ticket to maximizing deductions and reducing your income taxes. You can also save on other expenses like mortgage interest, property taxes, insurance premiums, and costs related to repairs and maintenance.


When it comes to reporting your rental property income or losses to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), there's a form called Schedule E. Think of it as your go-to tool for reporting your tax records in order. It's the form you'll use when you need to report how much money you're making (or potentially losing) from your rental real estate. You'll find it as part of your individual tax return, also known as Form 1040.

Schedule E isn't just for rental properties; it's also a useful form for reporting any passive income you might have from sources like K-1s (typically your Partnership or S-Corporation).

But here's where it gets a bit more interesting: if you're providing extra services to your tenants beyond the typical rental activities, like offering cleaning, food delivery, or specialized services, you'll need to report it on Schedule C. This often comes into play with short-term rentals, typically on platforms like Airbnb and VRBO. But if you're just renting out the space without all the added services, then you're back to Schedule E.

Here's the catch: if you do provide what the IRS defines as 'substantial services,' you'll have to report your rental income and expenses on Schedule C of Form 1040. And, in some cases, you might even be subject to the Self-Employment Tax if you're actively involved in the rental business. So, when do you find yourself filling out Schedule C for your short-term vacation rental? There are two scenarios:

  1. If your average guest stays for fewer than 7 days AND you provide substantial services.
  2. If the average guest stay is less than 30 days AND you offer substantial services.

For S-Corporations and Partnerships involved in real estate, there's another form called Form 8825. This one is designed specifically for reporting rental income and expenses for these types of entities. You'll attach it to either Form 1065 or Form 1120S, depending on the specific entity that owns the properties.


If you're earning income from your real estate investments, whether it's from renting out a room or managing an apartment complex, it's essential to keep your tax records in order. You'll need to file a Schedule E as part of Form1040 to report your annual income individually. Some experienced real estate investors also opt for partnerships or S-corporations to generate rental income, and that involves filling out Form 8825. At the individual level, you'll receive a Schedule K-1, which should be reported on your 1040.

A word of caution: If you're thinking about operating your rentals through an S-Corp, it's a good idea to consult with a CPA first. This step can help ensure you're making the right financial choices for your situation and staying compliant with the tax rules. (Watch the VIDEO here)


What are Passive Activities?

Passive activities in the realm of investments refer to those in which the investor does not materially participate. These typically include rental real estate, limited partnerships, and specific business ventures. In passive activities, investors typically contribute capital or resources to an investment but refrain from actively managing or engaging in its day-to-day operations.

How is income taxed?

Income generated from passive activities is generally subject to income taxes. The specific tax treatment hinges on the nature of the passive activity and the individual's overall tax situation. Passive income is typically subject to ordinary income tax rates, akin to the taxation of regular salary or wages. However, certain passive activities may qualify for preferential tax treatment. For instance, real estate investments can be eligible for more favorable tax treatment if they meet the criteria for being considered a real estate professional's trade or business. It's crucial for passive investors to understand these tax rules thoroughly to optimize their financial strategies and ensure compliance with tax regulations.

How are losses limited?

When it comes to losses incurred in passive activities, there are specific rules governing their deductibility. Here's how it works:

  1. Offsetting Passive Activity Losses: Losses stemming from passive activities can generally be used to offset income generated from other passive activities. In other words, if you have multiple passive investments and one generates a loss, you can typically use that loss to offset gains from another passive investment.
  2. Limitations on Offset: However, it's essential to note that these losses cannot be used to offset income from non-passive activities, such as wages or salaries. In essence, you can't use your passive losses to reduce the taxes you owe on your active income from your job.
  3. Net Passive Activity Losses: If an individual ends up with a net loss after combining all their passive activities, there might be an opportunity to deduct a portion of that loss against their other income. However, this is subject to certain limitations and regulations. It's not a blanket allowance, and the specifics can vary based on the individual's circumstances.


What are Non-Passive Activities?

Non-passive activities involve investment undertakings where the investor materially participates. Material participation means that the investor plays an active and significant role in the operation or management of the activity on a regular, continuous, and substantial basis. Examples of non-passive activities include actively running a business, working as a self-employed professional, or actively managing investments.

How is income taxed?

Income generated from non-passive activities typically falls under the purview of income taxes. The specific tax treatment depends on the nature of the activity and the individual's overall tax situation. Generally, income from non-passive activities is subject to ordinary income tax rates. This encompasses income derived from various sources, such as business operations, self-employment, and salaries or wages.

How are losses limited?

Losses incurred in non-passive activities can be employed to offset income from other sources. The deductibility of these losses is contingent on multiple factors, including the taxpayer's tax classification (e.g., individual, partnership, or corporation), the type of activity involved, and the individual's overall tax scenario. Generally, losses from non-passive activities can be used to reduce taxable income from other sources, ultimately lowering the taxpayer's total tax liability.

It's crucial to be aware that specific restrictions might apply to the deductibility of losses, particularly with the presence of certain tax regulations that are always changing. These rules often limit the ability to offset income from non-passive activities with losses from passive activities. In certain instances, losses may be carried forward to future tax years or utilized to offset future gains, allowing for potential tax benefits over time.

In general, rental real estate investors are typically considered passive investors.

Non passive real estate investing demands extensive involvement and effort from the investor, involving activities such as flipping, wholesaling, and land development. Unless one qualifies for real estate professional status, rental income is categorized as passive. Consequently, rental losses can only be deducted against rental income or other passive income. While passive investors cannot use rental property losses to offset other taxable income, it's worth noting that passive income and capital gains are often taxed at lower rates than federal income tax rates, which apply to non-investors. Non passive investors may also incur additional self-employment taxes.

Passive investors enjoy the benefit of carrying rental losses forward indefinitely, allowing them to offset future passive income or apply them upon property sale.

On the other hand, active investors are subject to limitations. Rental losses for active investors are generally deductible only up to $25,000, provided their Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) is less than $100,000, with a phase-out based on income levels. To qualify for this deduction, active investors must make managerial decisions related to their properties, such as tenant selection and lease execution, and meet the criteria for real estate professional status.

The distinction between passive and nonpassive income or loss hinges on material participation. Passive status applies when a taxpayer does not significantly contribute to the income-generating activity. In contrast, active engagement in routine operations that an owner typically undertakes classifies the income derived from the business as nonpassive. Material participation is the determining factor for whether an activity is categorized as passive or nonpassive.


What is a long-term rental?

A long-term rental property is a conventional residential space typically offered unfurnished to tenants for extended lease durations. While most long-term rentals feature one-year lease agreements, some opt for monthly arrangements. Real estate investors often favor long-term rentals due to several advantages. These include the reliability of consistent monthly rental income and a reduced rate of tenant turnover, which in turn bolsters the property's stability and cash flow.

How are they taxed?

Income taxes related to long-term rental properties are typically determined by the rental income generated from the property. Rental income is considered taxable and must be reported on your federal tax return. This income is generally subject to ordinary income tax rates, which vary from 10% to 37% depending on your taxable income bracket. Furthermore, if you actively participate in the rental activity as a qualified real estate professional, you may also have an obligation to pay self-employment taxes.

How are losses limited?

For long-term rental properties, mitigating losses involves adherence to specific rules and regulations, which may vary depending on the jurisdiction but generally fall into two categories:

  1. Passive Activity Loss Rules: These rules come into play for rental activities classified as "passive" in nature. If you actively engage in managing your rental property, you could potentially deduct up to $25,000 of losses against your other income, provided you meet certain income limitations. However, as your adjusted gross income surpasses a specific threshold, the ability to deduct losses may diminish or phase out entirely.
  2. Basis and At-Risk Rules: These regulations determine the extent to which you can deduct losses from your rental activities based on your investment in the property. If you have an insufficient basis or are not deemed "at risk" for your investment, losses may be limited. These rules are designed to prevent taxpayers from offsetting losses from rental activities against other income without genuine economic risk being involved.


A short-term rental property, often referred to as a vacation rental, is a fully furnished living space available for shorter durations. These properties encompass a wide range, from condos to single-family homes, converted into vacation rentals. Real estate investors are drawn to short-term rentals due to their potential for higher income, although they come with certain challenges, including income fluctuations tied to seasonal demand and the ongoing effort needed to manage a steady stream of tenants. It's also important to factor in the "average of 7 days rule."

How are they taxed?

The taxation of short-term rental income hinges on several factors, including the number of days the property is rented and the owner's personal use of the property. Generally, rental income from short-term rentals is considered taxable and must be reported on the federal income tax return.

If you rent your property for 7 days or less in a year and use it for personal purposes for more than 7 days or more than 10% of the total days it's rented (whichever is greater), the rental income is not taxable. This means you need not report the rental income, but you also can't deduct any rental expenses.

If you rent your property for more than 7 days and use it for personal purposes for less than 7 days or less than 10% of the total rental days, the rental income becomes taxable. In this scenario, you must report the rental income on your tax return and can deduct specific rental expenses, such as advertising costs, cleaning fees, repairs, and utilities.

How are losses limited?

Loss limitations for short-term rentals differ for rental activities classified as passive and non-passive. Passive rental activity losses can offset passive income but cannot be used against non-passive income, like wages or business earnings. Excess passive losses can be carried forward to offset future passive income.

In contrast, losses from non-passive rental activities can offset both passive and non-passive income. Non-passive rental activities are typically associated with real estate professional activities or significant material participation in the rental business.

What is a “7-day rule”?

The "7-day rule" offers valuable guidance to vacation rental owners seeking to optimize their tax deductions. According to this rule, if a property is rented for an average of 7 days or less, owners become eligible for tax-deductible losses. For ambitious real estate investors focused on growth, understanding and adhering to this rule can not only be significant but sometimes everything!


For rental real estate investors, it's vital to pay close attention to state-specific tax regulations and avoid common mistakes that can have significant financial implications. Two key areas to focus on are filing taxes in the correct state and accurately adjusting depreciation, especially in relation to bonus depreciation:

State-Specific Tax Filings: Each state in the USA has its own tax laws and requirements. One common mistake made by rental real estate investors is not filing taxes in the state where they own the assets. Here's why this is crucial:

  1. Nexus Determination: Many states require you to file taxes if you have a significant economic presence or "nexus" in that state. Owning rental property within a state often establishes this nexus, making it mandatory to file taxes in that state.
  2. Compliance with State Laws: State tax laws vary widely, and failure to file taxes in the state where your property is located can result in penalties and legal troubles. States rely on property tax revenues, and non-compliance can lead to audits and fines.

Different states offer various deductions and incentives for property owners. Failing to file in the state of property ownership means missing out on potential tax benefits specific to that state.

Depreciation Adjustment, Including Bonus Depreciation: Depreciation is a significant tax benefit for rental real estate investors, allowing them to deduct the cost of the property over its useful life. However, one common error is not accurately adjusting depreciation for states that do not follow federal bonus depreciation rules. Here's why this matters:

  1. Federal vs. State Bonus Depreciation: The federal government often offers bonus depreciation as an incentive for real estate investments, allowing investors to deduct a significant portion of the property's cost in the year it's placed in service. However, some states do not conform to these federal rules and have their own depreciation schedules.
  2. Mismatched Deductions: Failing to adjust for state-specific depreciation rules can result in a mismatch between federal and state deductions. This can lead to overestimating deductions at the federal level while underestimating them at the state level, potentially leading to audits and penalties.

To avoid this mistake, rental real estate investors should work closely with tax professionals who are well-informed about both federal and state tax laws. They can accurately calculate depreciation while considering state-specific rules, ensuring compliance and optimizing tax benefits.


The IRS Schedule E is specifically designed for reporting rental income or loss from real estate properties, while Schedule C is obligatory for short-term rentals that involve substantial services. S-Corporations and Partnerships utilize Form 8825 to report rental activities. It is crucial to understand whether you fall under the category of a passive or active investor, as it directly affects the deductibility of rental losses. Long-term rentals offer a stable cash flow, whereas short-term rentals have the potential for higher income but demand increased management efforts. Adhering to tax rules and regulations is vital for property owners to optimize their tax situation and achieve favorable financial outcomes.

To navigate these challenges and ensure compliance, we at Investor Friendly CPA® can provide you with professional advice when needed and guide you with tax laws and regulations. We will be glad to provide any help that will benefit your business.