3

I am a full time employee in Texas and my wife is a stay at home mom. We are buying our third house and it should be ready in about 11 months. We rent out our current 2nd home (of which we own about 50%) on AirBnb and barely make a profit since we are still paying the mortgage. We will rent out our current home (of which we own about 25%) before we move to our new build.

I am a fan of John Schaub's method of "building wealth one house at a time", where you own a small percentage of the property and rent it out for a price not much higher than enough to cover the costs. This way, the property pays for itself and your income on the rent is unrealized and therefore not taxed in most circumstances.

However, I'd like to know about opening an LLC under these circumstances, so I get a tax advantage on my costs for these two properties I'm renting out (HOA and property taxes). Also, my wife will be informally working on maintaining these properties, fixing issues, hiring contractors when necessary, etc. We would like to deduct her costs as well.

  • In the beginning I will have very little to report, due to trying to have unrealized income rather than realized income. Is it a big deal to have an LLC with little to no profit? Would that be a problem with the IRS, and why?
  • Regardless of the amount of profit, is it advantageous to have an LLC for renting out properties while I have a full time job?
  • What are the drawbacks?
  • 1
    To my knowledge, LLCs don't offer significant tax advantages (the income is still passed-through to the individual for a single-onwer LLC) but are more about the liability that you'll have. You can deduct business-related expenses either way. – D Stanley Jul 2 at 15:44
  • There are also significant risks associated with highly leveraging rental properties that you should be aware of. Also be clear of what your net return is (less interest and costs) to make sure it's higher than other investments of similar risks. – D Stanley Jul 2 at 15:47
  • @DStanley I was thinking about the business-related expenses, yes. Mainly the HOA fees and the property taxes. Those can be deducted as costs, can't they? – Hill Jul 2 at 16:05
  • For the LLC to be able to deduct property taxes and other fees, it has to own the properties, so how are you planning to transfer them to the LLC? – mustaccio Jul 2 at 16:09
  • I could transfer the title to the LLC and keep the mortgage in my name, no? – Hill Jul 2 at 16:12
8

Jon Schaub may have some valid advice, but there seem to be several critical defects with your interpretation of it.

You have to post income as income

You seem to labor under the impression that since your AirBnB revenue just pays your mortgage, that produces little or no income to tax. That would be the "in my wallet" accounting system, which IRS does not recognize. They recognize Cash or Accrual systems. In both of them, all the gross income from AirBnB posts as income.

And then, you charge expenses against that, to the extent allowed by law, either as a business expense or as a personal deduction.

Limiting income pretty much never makes sense

Since you get to deduct all your business expenses regardless... and since all your income is income... unnecessarily making less money just doesn't make any sense. If your incremental tax rate is 25%, you are always better off earning $100,000 and paying $25,000 taxes -- than earning $40,000 and paying $10,000 taxes.

Unless something very unusual is going on with your cost-of-doing-business, or this pushes you over a limit for eligibility for some government assistance like healthcare or food stamps. The idea of holding back a business from success sounds like some goofball hyper-intellectual "way overthinking it" deal, like communism, and Mr. Schaub should maybe stick to real estate :)

If someone else had a stake in the business, it would actually be a breach of fiduciary duty to shortchange the business that way, because they would suffer unnecessarily. I mention that because you say "about 50%" and "about 25%". You must answer to your other 1 or 3 partners as to why you are limiting their share of the profits.

Mortgages are not expenses, only the interest

If that 50%/25% merely reflects financing (mortgage), then they're not partners, you owe a mortgage. Correct accounting is: you own 100% of the house (in assets), a mortgage (in liabilities), and mortgage interest (in expenses, which impacts profit/loss statement). Note that paying mortgage principal doesn't post as anything at all on the P/L statement. You're taking a cash asset, and using it to pay down liabilities, which increases net assets, but it's a paper asset. Merely converting one kind of asset to another cancels out and has no effect on the P/L. The P/L is essentially what you pay taxes on.

Since mortgage principal doesn't cancel out income, the income used to pay the mortgage principal posts as a profit.

LLCs do not work that way ... unless you ask

However, I'd like to know about opening an LLC under these circumstances, so I get a tax advantage on my costs for these two properties I'm renting out (HOA and property taxes). Also, my wife will be informally working on maintaining these properties, fixing issues, hiring contractors when necessary, etc. We would like to deduct her costs as well.

The IRS ignores LLCs. To be more precise, a single-member, pass-through LLC is a disregarded entity. For IRS purposes, all of its assets, liabilities, income and expenses simply fall into your personal taxes and life situation. Each LLC asset is your individual asset. Each bit of gross income is your gross income. Each LLC expense is taxwise treated as your personal expense.

So... Tax advantage? You already get it (or not). Being able to deduct wife's "costs"? You either already can, or you can't. Forming an LLC doesn't give you any new tax advantages you didn't have already, because it is passing through.

Things get a great deal more soupy if two separate 1040s are splitting an LLC, but the principle applies: everything passes through.

What's that "pass-through" business? Well, if you really, really want to, the LLC can elect corporate tax treatment, where it taxes just like a corporation. It is its own "man" so to speak, maintains totally separate accounting books, files its own annual Form 1120 (instead of 1040), reports profit/loss separately, and you take money out by collecting salary or issuing dividends. This is a lot of work, and defeats most of the simplicity that makes LLCs attractive.

Then why do people like LLCs so much? Liability. If your LLC has problems or gets sued, and the LLC goes bankrupt, then the LLC can walk away from all its debts, while your credit is untouched. This is a trait it shares with a corporation, so you get the liability shield without all the paperwork and double taxation. Of course, the bank knows this, so will be reluctant to write the LLC a mortgage unless you co-sign.

  • The principal part of a mortgage payment isn't an expense, but depreciation is, and residential real estate is a popular investment precisely because depreciation deduction generally wipes out most of the taxable income. – chrylis Jul 3 at 0:29
  • An LLC can also elect S treatment. – chrylis Jul 3 at 0:32
3

The LLC has nothing to do with the property unless:

It owns the title to the property

It is the management company to maintain the property

You haven't specified either. You just opened an LLC and imagined its related to the property in some unspecified way?

The comments mention that you own the mortgage in your name.

A lot of problems here. The LLC should have been around before any of this. When you looked for and got this property, it and the mortgage should have been in the LLC's name with maybe you as the backstop/co-signer.

Solve that and perhaps ask a new question

but regardless of how many concepts you are conflating, the IRS doesn't care about your LLC.

LLC's don't pool up money it earns like a corporation does, LLC's pass through money to its members.

  • If the LLC owns the properties, can it hire the wife as an employee and pay her enough to use up at least some of her tax free allowance (assuming she works enough hours and the pay rate is reasonable). – Martin Bonner Jul 2 at 16:27
  • An LLC can be treated as a disregarded entity, but it doesn't have to be. My Texas LLC is treated as an S corporation (it provides professional services), and the election of disregarded/C/S can be made when the LLC is formed. – chrylis Jul 3 at 0:32
  • @chrylis that's correct. Up to OP to know this and form a better question – CQM Jul 3 at 15:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.