Track Use of your Vacation Home to Maximize Tax Breaks

If you own a vacation home (some boats and recreational vehicles also qualify) that you also rent out to others, keep track of who uses it during the year to maximize your tax breaks.

* Meet the rules and receive tax-free income. If your home is rented for 14 or fewer days during the year, you don’t have to report the income. You can generally deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes as itemized deductions, but you can’t deduct any other rental expenses.

* Limit your personal use, and deduct all your rental expenses. If you limit your personal use to not more than 14 days or 10% of the time the home is rented, all rental expenses are deductible.

* Offset your rental income with your rental expenses. If you use the property for more than 14 days or 10% of the number of days it’s rented, the rules change. Your rental deductions (except for taxes and mortgage interest) are limited to the amount of your rental income.

Example: You stayed in your vacation home 20 days last year. It was rented at fair market value for 190 days. In this example, your personal use exceeded the 10% limit (19 days). Your rental deductions are limited to the rental income you received.

* Convert the property to your residence, and the gain when you sell may be tax-free. If you use your vacation home as your principal residence for two out of the five years before you sell it, you may exclude up to $250,000 of gain ($500,000 for married couples) from your income. However, you will have to pay tax on gain to the extent of certain depreciation previously taken after May 6, 1997.

The rules are complex, but a basic understanding of the rules and good recordkeeping will help you get the best tax breaks from your vacation home. Give us a call if you would like more information.

About Brenda J. McGivern, CPA

Brenda McGivern started her own certified public accounting and management consulting firm in October 2001. The full service CPA firm provides tax and accounting solutions to meet the needs of today's small business and individual. Brenda McGivern has become a trusted advisor and valuable resource her clients rely on for timely, accurate assistance when they need it. Before starting the firm, she worked as an accountant for three years at a local firm and prior to that five years at a large international CPA firm in Boston. She has performed the following tax services: federal, state and local tax planning, international tax planning, estate and succession planning, mergers and acquisitions, capital retention and IRS representation. She has also coordinated assurance engagements, such as financial statement audits, reviews and compilations from the planning phase through the reporting phase. She has prepared and reviewed regulatory filings for numerous regulatory agencies including the Security and Exchange Commission. Prior to these positions she was selected from over 2,000 candidates into an eight-person intensive financial management program at an international technology company. The program consisted of graduate level classroom study and two six-month rotational assignments in financial operations. She graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and holds a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting. McGivern also holds a license in Massachusetts as a Certified Public Accountant and is a member of the American Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants. She resides in Stoughton, Massachusetts with her husband Brian, and their sons Sean, Ryan and Conor and their dog, Davis.
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