Renting Your Vacation Home – Part I

Originally published in the Cedar Street Times

August 10, 2012

August is here; summer is slipping away; and families are fitting in last-minute vacations before school is about to start.  Perhaps you are one of the landlords collecting a little more rent to help battle the bottom-line.  A good topic for you to review is whether or not you understand the tax laws relating to a vacation rental home.  In my experience, most landlords and a fair amount of tax return preparers could use a refresher on this topic, or maybe the beginner lesson they missed!  I warn you that the rules are less friendly than you may realize, however, I am not a believer that ignorance is bliss, and I can guarantee you that the IRS is not.

The crux of taxation on a vacation home comes down to “personal use” of the property.  If you remember anything at all from this article, it is that EVERY day of personal use cuts into your tax deductions.  One of the most proliferated errors on this topic is that the landlord can use the property for up to two weeks a year with no negative ramifications.  This is categorically incorrect; the laws are spelled out quite clearly in Internal Revenue Code Section 280A and related Treasury Regulations.

It is also important to understand what the IRS means by “personal use.”  Personal use includes any use of the property by any of the owners, their family members (sibling, spouse, ancestors, descendants of any owners), or anyone else with free use or paying less than fair market rent.  Even if a family member pays fair market rent, it is still considered personal use unless it is their primary residence.  The only way for any of those members to be present and not have the property counted as personal use is if they are working on the property.  The IRS even defines quite strictly what working on the property entails – it is sufficient to say that an eight-hour workday for everybody present is requisite, and the IRS could ask to see work logs, receipts, etc.

I think this expansive definition of personal use nails about 99 percent of people with a vacation home, right!?  After all, most people that have a vacation home bought it or kept it because they like the place and enjoy staying there!

So now that you have determined you likely have personal use of your property, how does this affect the taxation?  Your homework is to count up the days of personal use you anticipate for 2012, and the number of days you expect to rent it, and in two weeks I will tell you what it means.

Prior articles are republished on my website at

IRS Circular 230 Notice: To the extent this article concerns tax matters, it is not intended to be used and cannot be used by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law.

Travis H. Long, CPA is located at 706-B Forest Avenue, PG, 93950 and focuses on trust, estate, individual, and business taxation. He can be reached at 831-333-1041.

2 comments so far

  1. kayket on

    renting vacation at home wow nice article looking forward to red more.

    • Travis H. Long, CPA on

      Thanks for the comment. I hope you found the second installment helpful as well!

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