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Should I register my business as a landlord?

Formalizing your rental business by creating a separate business entity for it may make sense for a variety of reasons. Whether you register your rental business by creating a corporation or form an LLC under state laws, using a separate business structure and separating your business income from your personal income can protect you from being personally liable for the financial obligations or potential future legal troubles of the business.

Creating a corporation or LLC for your rental income also enables you to take advantage of business-related tax deductions, including everyday business expenses, property taxes and insurance on the rental property, expenses of maintenance and upkeep, property management costs, and even things like medical insurance premiums.

How is rental income taxed in an S-Corporation?

C-Corporations are taxed at the corporate level, and then again at the individual shareholder level. If you establish an S-Corporation, the profits and losses for earned income of the business are passed through to its shareholders – the entity itself does not pay taxes on earned income.

However, rental income is sometimes considered "passive income" by the IRS. This may be the case if the corporate shareholders were not actively involved in the property management. As such, the income may be taxed at corporate tax rates, rather than individual shareholders' individual income tax rates. In addition, there is also a risk in certain circumstances that the amount of passive income for the corporation relative to its earned income could be too high for the entity to continue qualifying for S-corporation status under IRS rules.

How is rental income taxed in an LLC?

If you structure your rental property business as an LLC, the income is, by default, taxed as pass-through income to the LLC's members. If you are the sole member in your LLC, you will report all of the income on your personal income tax returns and can deduct business expenses. There is not a separate income tax filing required at the business level, so you avoid the "double taxation" situation that can arise with corporate entities.

If you choose a sole proprietorship model, you must report all of your rental revenues as income. This could put you in a higher tax bracket than you would face if you registered your business and paid yourself a salary instead.

Another potential consideration has to do with transferring real estate into an S-Corporation. If you transfer property that is subject to a mortgage into an S-Corporation, you could be subject to corporate taxation on the transfer under  Internal Revenue Code Section 357 .

Is a business registration right for my rental property business?

While there are potential business and tax advantages associated with registering a corporation or forming an LLC for your rental business, be aware that either approach comes with certain formalities and responsibilities that sole proprietors won't encounter. You could also face unanticipated tax consequences when it comes time to sell rental property owned by a corporation.

If your primary objective in registering a business is to limit your liability rather than to gain tax advantages, you may be able to obtain liability protection by creating a trust or purchasing landlord insurance instead.

The best approach for you depends on your specific situation and goals. Reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for personalized advice and legal guidance based on your circumstances. If you need tax help, Rocket Lawyer can now match you with a tax pro for affordable and convenient tax filing services. Did you know you could save half off your taxes with Rocket Tax™? Just hand off your documents, RocketSign® and done.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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