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Here is a tax break for you involving your parents!

September 19, 2012

Say your parents live in a home that has appreciated in value, but they’re no longer reaping any of the homeownership tax breaks during their retirement years. Sound familiar? There is good news. With one stroke of the pen, both you and your parents can win: They’d gain instant access to their home equity (without moving) and you’d pick up some generous new tax deductions. How? Buy your parent’s house, and then rent it back to them – at the going rate.

Reason for the sale/leaseback is that under the current homeownership setup, your combined family unit is overpaying the IRS. Your parents’ mortgage is either paid off or the payments represent mostly principal at this point. Even if they still take interest deductions, your parents’ tax bracket might be low in retirement, so those deductions don’t provide much tax savings. In fact, many retirees take the standard deduction rather than itemizing. Here are two good reasons for your parents to opt into this plan:

  1. It puts cash in their pockets without them having to refinance or dip into a home equity loan.
  2. It allows them to put their money into safer investments than the real estate market.

To avoid gift-tax complications, pay a fair price for the home. Support the buying price with a qualified and independent appraisal. Then, both sides should enter into a lease at a fair rental value. The Courts have said that landlords can reduce their rent by 20% when renting to relatives. The lower rent reflects the savings maintenance and management costs. But don’t set the rent too low; the IRS might say the rental home is really for your personal use. In that case, your deductions might be limited to mortgage interest and property tax, the same as if you owned a vacation home.

Once you own your parents’ house, your entitled to reap the tax benefits of owning rental property. That includes taking write-offs for operating expenses, such as utilities, maintenance, insurance, repairs and supplies. You can also claim depreciation deductions for the home, but you can’t depreciate the cost of the property apportioned to land. So obtain an appraisal allocating the price paid between the depreciable structure and the nondepreciable land. You can use these deductions to offset the rental income received from your parents. Any allowable tax loss will phase our for people with adjusted gross incomes between $100,000 and $150,000. You can take any suspended losses when you sell the house. And a bonus benefit is once you own the house, you may be able to write off occasional travel expenses you incur when visiting the house (you rental investment).

Eventually, your parents won’t be able to live in the house. Then, you sell it, rent it to another tenant or move in. If you move in and make it your principal residence for at least two years, you can sell it and shelter another $250,000 or $500,000 worth of capital gains; a true tax bonanza!

There are so many reasons why you should visit a tax professional and tax breaks like this are just one example of that. At Gunwel Associates we have many tax savings tips to help you navigate through your financial life. Give us a call at 615-730-9444 and visit our website at We want to help, we are here for you!

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 21, 2013 9:42 am

    Your articles are always interesting and understandable. Thank you!

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