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March 24, 2024

Maximize returns with key tax strategies for real estate investors

Tax strategies for real estate investors can massively boost profits and ensure long-term success for real estate investors. Knowing the ins and outs of tax laws and using them smartly can make a huge difference in your financial outcomes.

In this discussion, we’ll explore six top tax strategies designed specifically for real estate investors. These strategies cover various aspects offering ample chances to cut down on taxes and maximize earnings.
Let’s dive into these tactics that experienced investors leverage to their benefit.

Top 6 tax strategies for real estate investor


Depreciation is a key tax strategy for real estate investors. It lets you deduct the value of a property (excluding land) from your taxable income over time. For residential properties, this deduction happens over 27.5 years, while for commercial properties takes 39 years according to the IRS. Imagine you bought a residential rental property at $350,000, and after assessing, the land was valued at $75,000. That leaves you with a property value of $275,000.

Now, with depreciation, you’d be able to deduct $10,000 annually for 27.5 years. This means each year, you can subtract $10,000 from your taxable income for nearly three decades, providing a considerable tax advantage over time.



It identifies parts with shorter lifespans, letting you depreciate them faster. This can boost cash flow in the early years of owning a property. However, it’s important to consider if this aligns with your long-term investment goals before diving in.

Deductible expenses

A big plus for real estate investors is the ability to deduct expenses related to running rental properties. This strategy is a game-changer for taxes, as it allows owners to subtract various costs from the money they’re taxed on. Ryan Bakke emphasizes this benefit, highlighting that expenses like property management fees, repairs, maintenance, property taxes, and insurance payments can all be deducted.

Deductible expenses

Deductible expenses

These deductions work wonders by reducing the amount of income that’s taxable. In simple terms, it means less tax hassle and more money staying in the investor’s pocket, helping cover the day-to-day expenses of keeping rental properties in tip-top shape.

1031 exchange

The 1031 exchange is a smart move for real estate investors looking to delay paying capital gains taxes when selling a rental property. It works by allowing investors to put the money from the sale into another similar property, deferring the capital gains tax until they sell that new property.

However, there are rules: One big rule is that the new property you get through the exchange must be held onto for at least a year.

1031 exchange

1031 exchange

To make the exchange work, you’ve got to follow certain criteria. Firstly, both properties involved must be real, physical things, not something intangible like goodwill. Also, the value of the new property has to be the same as or more than the property you’re letting go of in the exchange. This makes sure the taxes get deferred properly. Plus, both the property you’re selling and the one you’re buying have to be used for business purposes, not personal living.

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Following these rules is crucial to make use of the tax advantages that come with a 1031 exchange, giving investors a way to shuffle their real estate holdings without getting hit with hefty taxes right away.

FICA Tax/ Self-Employment

For people in real estate who work for themselves, there’s a tax detail worth knowing about Social Security and Medicare taxes, aka FICA taxes. Normally, when you’re on a payroll, you and your employer split these taxes, adding up to 15.3%. But if you’re self-employed, you’re covering the whole amount.

FICA Tax/ Self-Employment

FICA Tax/ Self-Employment

Here’s the interesting part: rental income, although it’s taxed at regular rates, doesn’t fall under these Social Security and Medicare taxes. So, if you’re getting money from rental properties and you’re self-employed, you don’t have to pay these particular taxes on that income. This difference in tax treatment between rental income and other types of earnings can be a helpful advantage for independent real estate investors come tax time.

Passive income

Another key tax strategy in real estate involves understanding passive income and its relationship with the Pass-Through Deduction. While rental income is often seen as non-passive, the IRS labels income from rental-related activities where the investor isn’t actively involved as passive income.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 introduced a significant tax break for rental property owners through the Pass-through Deduction. This deduction allows them to potentially deduct up to 20% of their net rental income or, alternatively, 5% of the property’s original cost plus 25% of employee payroll expenses.

Passive income

Passive income

It’s essential to note that this deduction, distinct from regular rental deductions, was established in 2018 and is currently set to expire in 2025. Understanding this deduction and its treatment of passive income can significantly impact tax planning for real estate investors, providing a window of opportunity for reducing tax liabilities.

Opportunity zone funds

A significant strategy emerging from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 involves opportunity zone funds, aimed at deferring capital gains from the sale of investment property. With approximately 9,000 designated areas marked as Opportunity Zones, this initiative aims to stimulate investment in economically challenged and rural regions.

Here’s the catch: investors get the chance to delay paying capital gains tax by channeling their gains from other property sales into investments within these opportunity zones.

Opportunity zone funds

Opportunity zone funds

It’s a powerful move encouraging investment in communities needing economic boosts while providing a tax advantage for real estate investors keen on deferring capital gains taxes.

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How do repairs get categorized as capital expenses rather than regular repairs and maintenance?

Repairs are generally considered regular maintenance when they aim to preserve the property’s existing condition. On the other hand, expenses are classified as capital improvements when they go beyond mere upkeep. These improvements often increase the property’s value, prolong its usefulness, or alter it significantly for a new function.

For example, fixing a broken air conditioning unit or patching a leaking roof falls under repairs. However, replacing the entire AC system or completely redoing the roof is usually categorized as a capital improvement due to its significant impact on the property’s value or lifespan.

How much flexibility is there in defining the “useful life” of a capital expenditure?

Defining the “useful life” of a capital expense is mainly outlined by the IRS, especially after they released detailed guidelines in 2014. Disagreements between property owners and the IRS often revolve around deciding whether an expense falls under repairs or substantial improvements. The IRS sets specific durations, called class lives, for different parts of properties, outlining how long they’re expected to remain useful. Interest payments on loans or mortgages can usually be deducted in the year they’re paid, but other costs related to loans typically have to be spread out and depreciated over the life of the loan, following IRS rules.

Is it possible to deduct loan costs? And which costs must be capitalized?

Yes, you can deduct the interest you pay on loans in the same year you pay it. But when it comes to other costs tied to loans, like points, origination fees, credit reports, bank fees, appraisal fees, mortgage insurance, assumption fees, and application fees, it’s a bit different.

These expenses have to be handled as capital costs, which means they’re spread out and written off slowly over the life of the loan. Instead of getting an immediate deduction, these costs are accounted for gradually over many years, often as long as the loan lasts, which could be around 30 years.


Becoming skilled at tax tricks in real estate investing is like finding a secret weapon. The six strategies we’ve discussed give investors a toolbox to lower taxes and boost profits. Understanding the difference between repairs and improvements and how the IRS sets the lifespan of expenses adds more to this money-saving toolkit. Overall, these strategies not only promise potential tax cuts but also help investors shape their portfolios smartly, navigate tricky rules, and seize opportunities in the ever-changing world of real estate.

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Tom Tran

Tom Tran

Tom Tran is a seasoned entrepreneur and expert in real estate property management with a diverse background in business ventures. He is the Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Hexa Property Management, LLC, based in Houston, Texas.

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