This addition to the Internal Revenue Code allows taxpayers to deduct 20 percent of any Qualified Business Income they receive during a tax year. But the exact definition of QBI had long been uncertain. IRC Section 162 states that a trade or business “generally includes any activity carried on for the production of income from selling goods or performing services.”
That’s not a very helpful definition, especially in the real estate ownership context. IRS Notice 2019-07 substantially clarified the picture. It establishes a safe harbor for real estate rental income. If such money meets the 2019-07 test, it is automatically QBI. However, the safe harbor provisions are still rather subjective, and there are some limitations.
Certified tax coaches may provide the information you need in these situations. These professionals help navigate the Tax Code’s complex provisions.
Instead of the income itself, or the property itself, the real estate safe harbor provision focuses on the landowner’s activities. If the owner spends at least 250 hours a year on rental activity, any income from that property is QBI and eligible for the 20 percent deduction. Rental activity includes things like:
- Making the property available for rent or lease
- Advertising the opening
- Verifying rental application information
- Negotiating lease terms
- Executing completed leases
- Collecting rent
- Managing the property
- Supervising employees or contractors
The owner can delegate these functions to partners, employees, or independent contractors. So, if the owner hires a part-time maintenance worker who spends Saturday mornings fixing sprinkler heads, servicing tenant appliances, and so on, those 200 hours count toward the 250-hour minimum.
Property procurement, improvement, and investment activities specifically do not count as rental activities. Time spent commuting to and from the property does not count toward the 250-hour minimum either.
There are also some exclusions. Owner-occupied property, even if it was only for one day in the year, never qualifies for the 199A income deduction. Triple net lease property (the tenant pays rent, utilities, taxes, and insurance) never qualified either.
For the most part, multi-unit property usually qualifies for the safe harbor allowance. It does not matter if the property is residential or commercial. It also does not matter if the owner intends to sell the property or move into it at a later date.
Single-unit property probably will not qualify. It’s very difficult to meet the hourly requirement in these situations. 250 hours is over six weeks of full-time work. Additionally, the aforementioned residency and lease restrictions often apply.
Contact a certified tax coach near you to learn more about the QBI deduction.