Book tax savings for a vacation home

QTA Consultants, Ltd./Renata Bliumaite

Do you own a vacation home that you use personally almost all the time? You could be in line for a unique tax break.

Strategy: Rent out the home for two weeks or less. Believe it or not, you don’t have to pay any federal income tax on the rental income! You can’t deduct any related expenses (such as advertising costs or cleaning), but you’ll usually still come out way ahead on the deal.

Here’s the whole story: Generally, if you rent out a vacation home, you’re entitled to deduct certain expenses, just like any other landlord. However, a vacation home owner may also use the home personally, especially during the summer months. In that case, if your personal use exceeds the greater of (a) 10% of the time the home is rented out at market rates or (b) 14 days, you can only deduct rental expenses up to the amount of your rental income. Therefore, you can’t claim a loss from the rental activity on your tax return. But there’s a small window of opportunity for taxpayers who don’t rent out a vacation home for more than 14 days during the year. In that scenario there are zero federal income tax consequences—no tax on the rental income, no deductions for related expenses. For example, say you rent out your seaside condo for the first two weeks in July for $3,000 per week.

Result: You’re entitled to pocket the entire $6,000 free of any federal income tax.

Tip: You might rent out the condo when you’re vacationing in some other spot