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General

Automatic Landlord Income Expense Tracking

Landlord Income Expense Tracking
Automatic and free landlord income expense tracking software makes life easier.

As we’ve already discussed, landlord income expense tracking is an important yet time consuming task for landlords. With all of the options available from a worksheet to landlord accounting software, each one has its pros and cons. We are going to highlight two major pros for landlords using RentalIncomeExpense.com – automatic recording of information and price.

Automatic Landlord Bookkeeping

If landlords want to save some time on tracking rental income and expenses when using RentalIncomeExpense.com, then they should use ClearNow for online rent payment. Rent collected via ClearNow is automatically recorded as income in RentalIncomeExpense.com. Furthermore, fees paid to ClearNow to collect rent online are also automatically recorded in RentalIncomeExpense.com. So just by using ClearNow, landlords eliminate the need to manually record rental income and the associated expense and thus save time.

Free Income Expense Tracking

RentalIncomeExpense.com is free rental property software. It’s hard to beat free. Many will ask, “What’s the catch”, when something so valuable is free. Believe it or not, there is no catch. Designed for landlords, RentalIncomeExpense.com is simple yet powerful landlord accounting software. Because it is free, landlords lose little when trying it out before taking out their wallets and purchasing software for their rental property needs. Beyond free, it also provides reports, like profit and loss, that tell landlords how well business is doing.

Information is powerful. A free tool like RentalIncomeExpense.com makes the mundane task of landlord bookkeeping all the more valuable.

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Landlord Taxes

Landlord Accounting Software vs Accountant

Landlord Accounting Software vs Accountant
Landlords should still track rental property income and expenses even if they use an accountant.

If I use an accountant for tax preparation, should I still use landlord accounting software? We think so. The two primary benefits are information and speed.

Information from Accounting Software

If you own property and rent it to receive income, then you are running a business. Anyone running a business should track income and expenses to understand how well or poorly the business is doing. Landlording is no exception. There are a variety of ways landlords can track rental property income and expenses. We recommend using landlord accounting software because of the powerful information it can provide for you through reports that tell you how your business is doing. For example, a profit and loss statement is a great financial review of the business’ revenues and expenses over a period of time. You may be deterred to pay for landlord accounting software when you are already paying an accountant. Do not fret because there are some excellent and free landlord income and expense tracking software such as RentalIncomeExpense.com and Avail.

Speed from Accounting Software

Maintaining good accounting records makes tax time easier. The reports you can generate from your rental property software will make your accountant’s work that much easier. You don’t have to give your accountant a shoebox full of random pieces of paper to sift through and figure out (which takes time!!). Instead, hand over a few reports that provide the details your accountant needs. For example, with RentalIncomeExpense.com, you can generate a Schedule E Helper report that mimics the Schedule E you will have to file with your taxes. And if your accountant charges by the hour, then by simply using free landlord accounting software to generate reports will save you more money because of the time savings!

The information and speed you will achieve when using landlord accounting software will complement the work your accountant does. You will make your accountant’s life easier, and they will likely thank you!

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General

Should Landlords Use Quickbooks?

Should Landlords Use Quickbooks
Quickbooks is great software for small business. But landlords can do better with other services.

Quickbooks by Intuit is a leading small business accounting software. Landlords often consider Quickbooks to do rental property accounting. However, there are much easier tools for landlords to use.

Quickbooks is too complicated

Quickbooks, by reputation, is not easy to learn. People buy books and videos to answer questions about how to set-up things in Quickbooks.

Moreover, even for Quickbooks experts, using Quickbooks for property management is difficult. In fact, it is challenging enough to warrant a video course on how landlords can use Quickbooks.

Landlord-specific accounting software is easier to use

Fortunately, there is a lot of landlord accounting software available as alternatives to Quickbooks. Just as a handyman has many tools in their toolbox (hammer, screwdrivers, wrenches) to fix problems, the right sized landlord software can make your life so much easier.

For landlords who just need a few reports and simple income and expense tracking, RentalIncomeExpense.com is an easy-to-use and free alternative to Quickbooks. For large property managers with complex needs, there are property management accounting services such as Appfolio and Buildium.

As one example of the benefits of using a dedicated tool like RentalIncomeExpense.com, a landlord can quickly create an IRS Schedule E helper report with just a click of a button. This report contains all categories on the IRS form that their accountant will need at tax time. Try doing that with Quickbooks!

Categories
Landlord Taxes

Landlords and the 20% Pass Through Tax Break

landlords save taxes with 20% pass through tax break
For landlords, the 20% pass through entity tax break is a major deduction!

In the United States, the tax code has been widely seen as favorable for landlords. From reducing taxes via depreciation (a non-cash expense) to having losses offset salary income to being able to shelter capital gains with a 1031 exchange, there are numerous tax benefits to landlording. With the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, a major new benefit was added: the ability to deduct up to 20% of your net rental income from your income tax (“the 20% pass through tax break”).

What is a “20% pass through tax break”?

Woah! The term “20% pass through tax break” can be confusing. What does this mean?

From 2018 through 2026 (when this tax break is scheduled to end), this tax break may allow landlords to only be taxed on 80% of rental net income; hence the “20% deduction”. This deduction is only for “pass-through entities” – these are landlords who run their rental business as a sole proprietor, LLC owner, partner or S corp shareholder. A “pass-through entity” is a common business type where individuals pay their profits on their individual taxpayer rates.

Which landlords qualify for this?

When the 2017 tax cuts were passed, qualifying for the “20% pass through tax break” was originally complicated and confusing.

Fortunately, the IRS came out with a “safe harbor” rule which simplified the determination of whether a landlord can qualify for the tax deduction:

  1. Separate books and records must be maintained to reflect the income and expenses for each rental real estate enterprise.
  2. At least 250 hours of rental services must be performed each year with respect to each rental real estate enterprise. The safe harbor provides a list of rental services that qualify for this requirement.
  3. Records must be kept regarding the hours of all services performed, description of all services performed, who performed the services, and when the services were performed.

Additionally, there are income qualifications. The full 20% is available if your taxable income is less than $157,500 as a single filer or $315,000 if married filing jointly. If your income is higher, a complicated calculation by your CPA or tax software will calculate the amount that can be deducted.

To qualify for the “20% pass through tax deduction”, keep good records!

Good landlords keep track of income and expenses. It helps you understand what kind of profit or loss you are making, and is invaluable at tax time. The “20% pass through tax break” for landlords – and the important “safe harbor” provisions to qualify – reinforce the importance of good recordkeeping.

Fortunately, for the first safe harbor provision, there are great online tools that can help you track rental income and expenses. One of them, RentalIncomeExpense.com, is even free!

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General

Increase Rental Income & Value of Rental Property with Simple Steps

Simple steps to increase rental income and value of rental property
There are simple steps landlords can take to increase rental income and the value of rental property.

Successful landlords want to increase rental income and the value of their rental property. There are some simple ways to achieve both goals. With any business, investing in your property so that you can offer more value can justify commanding a higher rent from tenants.

Boost Curb Appeal & Rental Income

One of the driving factors tenants consider when searching for a rental is location. If your property is located near parks, popular businesses like grocery stores, or main travel routes, stressing the benefits of the physical location of your rental property can boost interest and value. Following close behind geographic location is the curb appeal of your property. Is the exterior clean and in good shape? Is the landscaping neat and attractive? If the answers to these questions are “YES”, then you’re already one step ahead in providing value.

Take a Look Inside

You don’t have to do a major renovation to make the interior of your rental property feel fresh and clean. Instead, simple upgrades like a fresh coat of paint, new hardware, and brighter lightbulbs can create an attractive vibe. And something as simple as a good scrub – in the bathrooms and kitchen for example – make a clean unit go a long way. If the interior of your rental property looks and feels great, then it’s easier for you to find a tenant willing to pay your asking rent.

Sell Amenities

Who doesn’t like great amenities especially if they are included in the rent? You may be able to earn more if you charge a la carte for extras, but no one likes to be nickeled and dimed. If you offer great amenities just include them as part of your rent and thus get the asking rent that you want. Here are some amenities that can increase the value of your property and your rental income:

Online rent payment: Tenants want an easy way to pay rent. If rent payment is on auto pilot for tenants, it will make your life easier to get paid. Consider services like ClearNow or RentPayment for online rent payment.

Short term leases: Typically, rents tend to be higher for shorter term leases. So if you have a prospective tenant willing to pay more for a shorter than standard lease term, you can enhance your rental income.

Boosting curb appeal, improving the look and feel of the inside, and offering great amenities will help you increase your rental income and value of your rental property. These steps are easy to take and can make a lasting difference. Whatever you decide to do to increase rental income and the value of your rental property, be sure to keep track of what you spend. Tracking your rental property expenses with a free tool like RentalIncomeExpense or other form of rental property accounting software will make your life so much easier!

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General

Landlord Accounting with RentalIncomeExpense

Landlord Accounting
Landlord accounting with RentalIncomeExpense.com makes tracking rental property income and expenses free and easy.

Landlords can manage their recordkeeping task in a variety of ways which can range from using a simple paper ledger to expensive sophisticated software. We’re going to take a look at RentalIncomeExpense.com as an ideal landlord accounting solution because it’s free, and it generates powerful reports when tracking rental property income and expenses.

FREE & EASY

Yes, you read correctly . . . RentalIncomeExpense.com is free. Landlords do not need to pay anything to use this tool. Most accounting software, like QuickBooks, Buildium, and RentecDirect, are fairly expensive, especially for the small landlord. Tracking rental property income and expenses is not the most exciting task, but it is a very important task. Making landlord accounting easy where you simply just record dates, vendors/customers, and amounts according to simple drop down menus makes the entire process painless.

POWERFUL REPORTING

Every business wants to know how well it is doing, and landlording is no exception. Generating reports from income and expenses that are tracked is powerful. RentalIncomeandExpense.com provides instant reports that matter, like Profit & Loss and a 1040 Schedule E helper. Because RentalIncomeExpense.com follows the income and expense categories used by the IRS’ Form 1040 Schedule E, the helper report makes tax time easier. You wouldn’t be able to generate such powerful reports if you were using a paper ledger or a simple spreadsheet for landlord accounting.

There is a lot of different accounting software to choose from. Because landlord accounting is such an important task, we encourage you to consider RentalIncomeExpense.com. It’s free and provides powerful reports that tell you how your landlording business is doing all the while making tax time a whole lot easier.

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General

Tips & Costs to Advertise Rental Property

tips to advertise your rental property
There are numerous low cost ways to advertise your rental property

Every business needs customers to generate revenue. For landlords, those customers are tenants. So when a tenant vacates, it is critical for the landlord to fill the empty unit as quickly as possible. The longer the rental property is empty, the longer the landlord does not make any money. Here are some tips on how landlords can advertise rental property effectively and associated costs:

1. Decide Where to Advertise

Landlords should think about where most of their tenants will search for an available property to rent. Online advertising is one of the most popular and wide-reaching methods today.

Landlords can advertise listings with a real estate specific site such as Zillow or Apartments.com. Note that Zillow has recently started charging $9/week for advertising each property whereas before they had been free. Other online options include social media platforms like Facebook or Nextdoor or a more general site such as the ever popular Craigslist. Many of these online advertising options are free, which is a real plus for the landlord’s bottom line.

A simple yard sign can still catch the eyes of a promising tenant. The cost for the “For Rent” sign in your yard is minimal.

2. Post High Quality Pictures

For tenants who prefer to search online, pictures become a critical basis for decision making. Landlords should post high quality photos of the empty unit so tenants searching online have a good idea of the rental property and can make a decision from the photos alone. With today’s smartphones, landlords can take their own high quality photos instead of hiring a professional photographer. Once a tenant is serious about renting a particular property, they benefit from a physical walk through of the rental property.

3. Be Responsive to Inquiries

In describing your rental property, identify key selling points. For example, you will want to mention if you accept online rent payment, as that may be an important criteria for tenants. While the description of your property for rent should be thorough, tenants may have questions. Providing accurate contact information and responding promptly to inquiries makes your unit and your reputation as a landlord positive selling points. In terms of cost here, it will be your time again. Being a responsive landlord will help you meet your goal of filling your vacancy as quickly as possible.

Good Advertising will Fill an Empty Unit

Advertising your rental property online or on paper, showing your rental property with good pictures, and being responsive to inquiries are all steps in the right direction to filling your vacancy. The cost to advertise your rental property is reasonable, especially for some online listings. For any costs you do incur to advertise your rental property, be sure to track them with a good tool such as RentalIncomeExpense.com, which is free, follows the Schedule E income and expense categories, and enables you to generate reports.

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General

Why Landlords Should Not Use the Zillow Worksheet

The Zillow Worksheet is a popular spreadsheet to download that Zillow provides for landlords to track rental income and expense. It is free to download and, at first, sounds like a great way for small landlords to track income and expenses.

Zillow Worksheet Has Many Issues

Unfortunately, by the time most landlords sink hours entering in their income and expenses with Zillow Worksheet, they’ll realize its significant limitations. Paraphrasing the old movie ‘The Untouchables’, Zillow worksheet is the technological equivalent of bringing a ‘knife to a gun fight‘.

  1. There is no individual income or expense item detail tracking. With the Zillow worksheet, you can only enter in the amount for a category and month. Do you want to know what the breakdown was for your ‘Advertising’ expense between different advertising options for a given month? There’s no way to provide that detail, just a dollar amount. Do you want to search for when you made a repair to the floor? Again, no item detail means you can never track this down. This will be a HUGE headache if you’re trying to make sure that you’re properly accounting for all the expenses (as you should, to reduce your taxes as much as you should be able to).
  2. The spreadsheet is only designed for up to five properties. If you start using the Zillow worksheet, you’ll quickly run out of room if you have more units. Or, if you rent to a roommate situation and want to track which individuals have made rent payment, you’re limited again.
  3. The Zillow worksheet has no way to generate reports. Want to know the profit and loss for an individual property? You can’t do that. The Zillow worksheet only totals the income and expenses for all properties and shows that number as a cell. There is no way to see profit and loss by month. And, the categories selected in this worksheet do not match up to the IRS 1040 Schedule E categories, which means this worksheet cannot easily generate a report for Schedule E.

When one really looks at the Zillow Worksheet, it is almost malpractice for a beginning landlord to use it – it doesn’t track income and expense item details, doesn’t show basic reports like profit and loss, and doesn’t grow with a landlord’s needs. It is surprising that for years, Zillow promotes this worksheet as a viable tool.

RentalIncomeExpense.com is a Better, Free Alternative to Zillow Worksheet

A better, completely free alternative is RentalIncomeExpense.com. It is free. It allows landlords to enter income and expense detail and Schedule E categories. Profit and Loss reports can be generated with just one mouse click. And, it allows an unlimited number of properties to be tracked.

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General

Recordkeeping for Landlords

Owning and managing rental property is a business activity. Depending on the number of properties you own, landlording can be a full- or part-time gig. Whether you create a separate business entity or not for your rental property, recordkeeping is important primarily for tax purposes and therefore requires two types of records: (a) a record of your income and expenses, and (b) documentation of your income and expenses.

Income & Expense Records

Tracking rental property income and expenses will help you complete rental property-related tax forms, such as Form 1040 Schedule E. The tax forms will determine if you earned a profit or incurred a loss for that year from your rental property. Because Schedule E is organized by each property, you’ll want to be sure to keep income and expense records separate for each rental address.

Supporting Documentation

Documentation of your income and expenses will come in handy if you are audited. Receipts, credit card statements, and cancelled checks will prove the income earned and expenses incurred should the IRS question the information reported to them. Supporting documentation will create a paper trail and prove that your claims are correct and the tax deductions you receive are legitimate.

Worth It

Landlords with good recordkeeping habits will maximize the tax benefits of owning and managing rental property. Keeping track of income and expenses and maintaining supporting documentation will reduce the stress if audited, let you know how your landlording is doing financially, and provide overall piece of mind.

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General

Rental Property Accounting Software for Landlords

Tracking income and expenses for rental property is a task most landlords do not enjoy. This record keeping task is time consuming and, to be frank, often mind-numbingly boring. Nevertheless, maintaining good accounting records makes tax time easier, is important to understanding how your landlord business is doing, and provides peace of mind.

Landlords can select from a variety of ways to record income and expenses. Cost, ease-of-use, and features (like reports) are items to consider when deciding on which rental property accounting method to pursue. We’ll take a look at some common ways, from the simplest to the most complicated, for tracking rental property income and expenses.

Tracking MethodPros & Cons
Spreadsheet* Free
* Create your own with Google Docs or Microsoft Excel
* Download free rental income and expense worksheet
*Cannot easily generate reports
Free Accounting Software* Free
* Simple and intuitive
* Easily generate reports like a Schedule E Helper and Profit & Loss statement
* RentalIncomeExpense.com
Paid Accounting Software* Expensive
* Can be overkill for a small landlord
* Complex and challenging to understand
* QuickBooks, Buildium, RentecDirect
Landlord Services * Provides benefits in addition to record keeping such as online rent payments, tenant screening, credit reporting, and vacancy listings
* Many times income and expense tracking is included as a free feature
* ClearNow, Zillow Rental Manager

Final Thoughts

While tracking rental income and expenses is not the most desirable task, finding the solution that best fits the budget, is easy to use, and provides features like reports becomes important to make tax time easier and provide peace of mind. From simple spreadsheets to free accounting software to paid accounting software to general landlord services, fortunately landlords have a choice when it comes to finding the right rental property accounting software for their needs.