Can I Deduct My Rental Real Estate Losses?

With the uncertain economic environment in the past few years, many individuals who own rental estate property have faced substantial losses. A question that often arises is whether such losses can be deducted, and if so, by how much? This article strives to answer these questions in general and provide a basic understanding of the deductibility of rental real estate losses. It is not intended to provide tax or legal advice. Renting real estate can be a complex area, full of many legal and tax obstacles, so you may wish to seek the advice of a competent, experienced attorney. Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. can assist you in all of your tax and legal needs.

The General Rule of Passive Activity Losses

In general, passive activity losses and deductions are likely to be limited to offsetting income from only passive activities (similarly, credits from passive activities may only be used to offset taxes on passive activity income). Passive activity losses that are greater than passive activity income will be disallowed in a tax year. However, passive activity losses and credits may be carried forward to the next taxable year.

Passive activities are defined to mean trade or business activities in which an individual does not “materially participate”. According to the IRS, material participation means that a taxpayer is involved with the business operations on a “[r]egular, continuous, and substantial basis.” Certain real estate professionals may meet the material participation requirements.


Generally speaking, rental real estate activities will be treated as passive activities, subject to the limitations stated above, unless certain requirements are met. As noted above, one such exception is for material participation in rental real estate activities.

Another limited exception exists for “active participation” in such activities. In general, active participation means that an individual (or married couple) owned at least 10% of the fair market value of the rental property interests, and made management decisions or arranged for others to provide services in a significant and bona fide manner. According to the IRS, “management decisions that may count as active participation include approving new tenants, deciding on rental terms, approving expenditures, and other similar decisions.” Thus, generally, limited partners will not meet the active participation test.

For those who qualify for the “active participation” exception, individuals may offset a maximum of $25,000 per year of passive losses from rental real estate against active and portfolio income. More specifically, $25,000 for single individuals and married couples filing jointly for a tax year, $12,500 for married individuals who lived apart from their spouses for a year filing separately, and $25,000 for a qualifying estate reduced by the special allowance for which a surviving spouse qualified.

Provided the requirements are met, losses may be deducted in full by individuals with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $100,000 or less ($50,000 or less for married couples filing separately). For incomes greater than MAGI of $100,000, the deduction will be limited to half of the amount greater than $100,000 up to $150,000 of MAGI ($75,000 for married filing separately). For individuals with income greater than MAGI of $150,000, the deduction may not be taken.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office For Advice With Respect to Rental Income and Losses

If you have any questions with respect to rental income or losses, contact the experienced tax law firm of Sherayzen Law Office.

Pursuant to IRS Circular 230, any advice rendered in this communication on U.S. tax issues (i) is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties imposed by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, and (ii) may not be used or referred to in promoting, marketing or recommending a partnership or other entity, investment plan or arrangement.