Renting Out a Vacation Home

Tax rules on rental income from second homes can be complicated, particularly if you rent the home out for several months of the year, but also use the home yourself.

There is, however, one provision that is not complicated. Homeowners who rent out their property for 14 or fewer days a year can pocket the rental income, tax-free.

Known as the "Master's exemption," it is used by homeowners near the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA who rent out their homes during the Master's Tournament (for as much as $20,000!). It is also used by homeowners who rent out their homes for movie productions or those whose residences are located near Super Bowl sites or national political conventions.

Tip:If you live close to a vacation destination such as the beach or mountains, you may be able to make some extra cash by renting out your home (principal residence) when you go on vacation--as long as it's two weeks or less. And, although you can't take depreciation or deduct for maintenance, you can deduct mortgage interest, property taxes, and casualty losses on Schedule A (1040), Itemized Deductions.

In general, income from rental of a vacation home for 15 days or longer must be reported on your tax return on Schedule E, Supplemental Income and Loss. Your rental income may also be subject to the net investment income tax. You should also keep in mind that the definition of a "vacation home" is not limited to a house. Apartments, condominiums, mobile homes, and boats are also considered vacation homes in the eyes of the IRS.

Further, the IRS states that a vacation home is considered a residence if personal use exceeds 14 days or more than 10 percent of the total days it is rented to others (if that figure is greater). When you use a vacation home as your residence and also rent it to others, you must divide the expenses between rental use and personal use, and you may not deduct the rental portion of the expenses in excess of the rental income.

Example:Let's say you own a beach house and rent it out during the summer, typically between mid-June and mid-September. You and your family also vacation at the house for one week in October and two weeks in December. The rest of the time the house is unused.The family uses the house for 21 days and it is rented out to others for 121 days for a total of 142 days of use during the year. In this scenario, 85 percent of expenses such as mortgage interest, property taxes, maintenance, utilities, and depreciation can be written off against the rental income on Schedule E. As for the remaining 15 percent of expenses, only the owner's mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible on Schedule A.

Questions about vacation home rental income? Please call and speak to a tax and accounting professional today.