Your Vacation Home and Tax Savings
Are you dreaming of a mountain cabin or an ocean-front bungalow? Then you should know that a vacation home can offer some tax savings. Depending on whether you use the vacation home solely for enjoyment or combine business and pleasure by rentingthe property part time, the tax laws differ.
As long as the combined debt secured by the vacation home and your principal residence does not exceed $1 million, you can deduct all of the interest paid on a mortgage used to buy a second home. This advantage is restricted to two homes. Should you purchase a third home, interest on that mortgage is not deductible. However, regardless of how many homes you have, you may be able to deduct all of the property tax paid.
One break enjoyed by homeowners—the right to immediately deduct points paid on a mortgage—applies only to a principal residence. Points paid on a loan for a vacation home must be deducted gradually, as the mortgage is paid off.
Your vacation home is considered a personal residence even if you rent it for up to 14 days a year. In such a situation, you may retain the rent tax free without jeopardizing your mortgage interest and tax deductions. However, you may not deduct any rental-related expenses. If you rent out the house on a continual basis, things may become more complicated. Depending on the breakdown between personal and rental use, different rules apply.
If you buy primarily for pleasure but rent for 15 days or more, the rent you receive is taxable. Because the house is still considered a personal residence, you may deduct all of the interest and property tax. You may also be able to deduct other rental-related expenses, including the cost of utilities, repairs, and insurance attributable to the time the house is rented. In some cases, you may be able to deduct depreciation. When the house is considered a personal residence, rental deductions cannot exceed the amount of rental income you report. In other words, your second home cannot produce a tax loss to shelter other income. In most cases, the interest and taxes assigned to the rental use of the house, plus the operating expenses, more than offset rental income, thus limiting your ability to write off depreciation.
Now, consider your tax situation if you buy a property primarily as an investment and limit your personal use of the property to 14 days a year (or 10% of the number of rental days, whichever is greater). Because the house is a rental property according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), your deductions can exceed the amount you receive in rental income.
If your rental income does not cover the cost of renting the house, you may be able to claim a taxable loss. Rental losses are classified as passive and can be deducted only against passive income, such as another rental property that realizes a gain. If you do not have passive income to shelter, the losses have no immediate value; however, unused losses can be used in the future when you have passive income.
There’s an exception to this rule, however, that permits taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) under $100,000 ($50,000 if married filing separately) to deduct up to $25,000 ($12,500 if married filing separately) of passive losses against other kinds of income, including salaries. To qualify, you must actively manage the property. The $25,000 allowance is gradually phased out for taxpayers whose AGI is between $100,000 and $150,000.
If your vacation home is considered a rental property, the mortgage interest attributable to the time the premises are rented is a business deduction. The remainder cannot be deducted as home mortgage interest since the house doesn’t qualify as a personal residence.
These tax laws also apply to apartments, condominiums, mobile homes, or boats with basic living accommodations. Generally, this means the property must include a sleeping space, bathroom, and cooking facilities. If you are considering the purchase of a vacation home, keep in mind that, from a tax perspective, that mountain cabin or ocean-front bungalow may be the ultimate dream home.
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