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February 2020 – New Tax Bill to Affect Real Estate Investors

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Happy February!

New Tax Bill to Affect Real Estate Investors

Our February feature is brought to you by Aaron Lavarias, CPA, Arla A. Kester, CPA, and Tyler Nyman, CPA, of the accounting and advisory firm, B.A. Harris. Please read on below and visit  for more information.

20% Rental Real Estate Deduction – Is 250 Hour Safe Harbor Necessary?

By Aaron Lavarias, CPA

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In 2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) introduced the 199A Qualified Business Income (QBI) Deduction, promising a 20% deduction from taxable income derived from qualified trades or businesses. That meant a taxpayer earning $10,000 in qualifying income would only pay taxes on $8,000 of said income. The initial guidance from the IRS made it clear that in order to qualify for the 20% QBI deduction, income must first be sourced through either a U.S. partnership, S-Corporation, or sole proprietorship (C-Corporations have been explicitly disallowed this deduction due to their tax rate dropping to a flat 21% in 2018). However, at the time, it was unclear as to whether participation in real estate rental activities would be considered a trade or business as defined by Section 199A.  This left many taxpayers wondering if their rental activity would qualify for the deduction at all.  

Due to the confusion, the IRS released Notice 2019-7, which offered a definition of a “real estate enterprise” and an annually determined safe harbor available to taxpayers seeking to claim the 199A deduction with respect to a rental real estate enterprise. According to the IRS, a real estate enterprise for purposes of the QBI deduction is an interest in real property held for the production of rents, which may consist of an interest in one property or multiple properties, as long as commercial and residential properties are not grouped together within the same enterprise (enterprises but be completely composed of either commercial rentals or residential rentals). Under this safe harbor, a rental real estate enterprise will be deemed a trade or business and therefore, eligible for the 20% deduction on net rental income derived from their qualifying rental real estate enterprise (subject to limitations upon reaching certain taxable income levels). In order to satisfy the requirements for the safe harbor election, the rental real estate enterprise must complete the following:

  1. Maintain separate books and records to reflect income and expenses for each rental real estate enterprise
  2. Maintain records regarding hours/dates/descriptions of services performed
  3. Perform 250 or more hours per year of rental services with respect to the enterprise
  4. Attach a signed statement, under penalties of perjury, to a timely filed original return for each taxable year in which the taxpayer relies on the safe harbor that all requirements have been satisfied
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Item number 3 was discouraging to taxpayers, as many viewed that number as unmanageable to reach in a given year. However, these safe harbor requirements should be of no concern, as Section 1 of Notice 2019-7 reads: 

If an enterprise fails to satisfy (the safe harbor) requirements, the rental real estate enterprise may still be treated as a trade or business for purposes of Section 199A if the enterprise otherwise meets the definition of trade or business (under section 162).

Meaning, as long as a taxpayer’s rental activity meets the definition of a trade or business, their income shall qualify for the 20% QBI deduction, regardless of whether the 250-hour condition is met. In order for the IRS to view a rental activity as a trade or business, we recommend the following:

  1. Involvement with the property should be continuous, either personally or through an agent such as a property manager
  2. Maintain separate books, records, and bank accounts for rental activities
  3. Issue all required 1099’s 

Essentially, if a taxpayer wants the IRS to view their rental activities as a business, they should treat them as such. The safe harbor may be elected by taxpayers who meet its requirements, but it should not be seen as the only way a rental activity can be considered a trade or business by the IRS and take advantage of the QBI deduction.

Please note that the IRS has been clear that triple net leases do not qualify for the QBI deduction, regardless of the taxpayer meeting the safe harbor requirements or conducting their activities as a trade or business. Also, be aware that income derived from self-rentals to the following “Specified Service Trades or Businesses” (as they are referred to under section 199A) may qualify for the 20% deduction, but the deduction phases out and is eventually lost at certain income thresholds ($326,600-$426,600 in 2020 for married taxpayers who file jointly):

  • medical services
  • law
  • accounting
  • actuarial science
  • performing arts
  • consulting
  • athletics
  • financial services
  • brokerage services (not real estate brokers)

The rules of the Qualified Business Income Deduction can be difficult to navigate. If you have any questions, please consult with your accountant or contact BA Harris LLP for any further assistance. If you would like timely tax topics delivered to your inbox, please sign up for our blog at

Maintenance Updates 

Make sure your rental benefits from preventative maintenance care. Look for your 2020 Opt-In maintenance survey, scheduled to email to you at the end of January.

The maintenance updates only apply to those of you who have pre-ordered these preventative maintenance services. If you didn’t opt in for a service you read about in this newsletter, and would like to schedule a service, just email to let him know.)

There are no preventative maintenance services scheduled for February.

Questions?  Please email Spencer.

Accounting Updates 

There are no special accounting items in February.

If you ever have questions about your statement, please contact

Your 1099 was mailed out. For security reasons, the 1099s are not made available to view online.

If you ever have questions about your statement, please contact

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Tenant Update

This month’s tenant newsletter reminds our tenants of parking etiquette to keep our communities running smoothly.

This month, we feature another a hidden message, the clues for which are buried in our Reminders sections as well as the feature article.

Check out our tenant newsletter this month:

What Are You Interested In?

This newsletter is intended as a resource and communication platform for you.  If there is a topic, relevant to the management of your investment property, that you would like me to write on, please let me know!