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Forgotten depreciation deduction a major tax issue

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Real estate investing provides many tax benefits, and depreciation is one of the biggest. It’s also one of the more misunderstood.

Depreciation lets you deduct a portion of the cost of the investment each year for the length of its IRS-designated life span.  The depreciation computation is figured based on the value of the improvements, not on the land underneath the improvements.  This necessitates that you be able to determine the value of the land and the value of the improvements.  This determination is generally included in the multitude of closing documents you received when buying the property or found on the county real estate tax website.  It is essential that you keep your closing documents.  There are additional costs that can be expensed and loan costs that must be amortized involved in the closing itself.

A recent client case provides a good example for this deduction and how it can be forgotten.

Joe, an old Army buddy into my office asking for help with his Taxes.  He had done his Taxes up to this point as he had a pretty simple tax situation but about two years ago he moved and turned his old primary home into a rental property.  The first year of owning his home he had done his Taxes and he had read some articles about depreciation and expenses that had gotten him thinking that maybe he had done something wrong on his Taxes so the following year when his Taxes were due he came to me make sure everything was correct. 

I reviewed his prior year tax return and immediately knew I was going to have to file an amendment to correct some glaring mistakes.  The first thing I looked at was his Schedule E.  He had about $10,000 of rental income and no expenses.  He had a 1099 showing interest and Taxes for the property.  He had mistakenly included all the interest and Taxes from the 1099 as an itemized expense and had not prorated the amounts between schedule A and E.  That was pretty simple.  When I computed his mistake, he had taken the standard deduction so the decreased itemized amount did not negatively affect him but I when I added up the interest and Taxes attributable to the rental portion of of the property it reduced his income down to about $7,000. Read More...


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