Rental Real Estate Owners-Guidance Related to the 20% Pass-through Deduction

On January 18, 2019, the IRS issued a notice providing “safe harbor” conditions under which rental real estate activities will be treated as a trade or business for purposes of the IRC Section 199A deduction.

To qualify for the safe harbor:

  1. Separate Books and records must be maintained for each rental real estate enterprise.
  2. At least 250 hours of rental services must be performed by the taxpayer and/or workers for the taxpayer during the tax year for each rental real estate enterprise. To clarify, a real estate enterprise may be one rental or multiple rentals.  Commercial and residential rentals cannot be combined in the same real estate enterprise.  Qualifying rental services counting toward the 250 hour requirement include advertising, negotiating and executing leases, verifying tenant applications, collecting rent, daily operation, maintenance and repair of the property, management, purchase of materials for repairs and supervision of employees and independent contractors.  The services can be performed by owners, employees, agents and/or independent contractors working for the owners.  We recommend filing 1099s by January of the following year for any services performed by non-owners.
  3. The taxpayer must maintain contemporaneous records including time reports, logs or similar support to document the hours of services performed, a description of the services performed, dates on which the services were performed and who performed the services. This will require tracking everything, your personal time and the time of those you employ.  A log book and a file for all invoices from others should be maintained.

Further clarification in the notice:

Triple Net Leases are not eligible for the safe harbor.

Vacation rentals (residences used by the owners) are not eligible for the safe harbor.

A statement is required to be attached to the taxpayer’s tax return and be signed by the taxpayer declaring that all the safe harbor requirements have been met and must include the following language:  “Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined the statement and to the best of my knowledge and belief, the statement contains all the relevant facts relating to the revenue procedure and such facts are true, correct and complete.”

Lastly, an enterprise that fails the safe harbor requirements may still qualify as a trade or business under the regulations for purposes of the 199A deduction.  If you are unsure about your rental real estate enterprise, consult with a WFY tax advisor.

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