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Beware: IRS Error in Rental Property Deduction Publication

Here’s a heads-up on mortgage insurance.

Personal Residence Mortgage Insurance

The deduction for mortgage insurance on a qualified residence ended on December 31, 2017. But don’t give up on the deduction.

The personal residence mortgage insurance deduction is part of what is called “tax extenders,” and it’s highly possible that lawmakers will reinstate the deduction retroactively for all of 2018 and 2019. That’s the good news. The bad news is that to claim the retroactive deduction we will need to amend your 2018 tax return.

Rental Property Mortgage Insurance—IRS Mistake

Online at the IRS frequently asked rental property questions, you will find the following question and incorrect answer:

Question: Can you deduct private mortgage insurance (PMI) premiums on rental property? If so, which line item on Schedule E?

Answer: No, you can’t claim a deduction for private mortgage insurance premiums.

This is wrong.

The cause for the error comes from IRS Publication 527, Residential Rental Property (Including Rental of Vacation Homes), where on page 1 in the “What’s New” section, the IRS states that the deduction for mortgage insurance premiums expired and you can’t claim that deduction for premiums after 2017 unless lawmakers extend the break.

The mistake that the IRS makes in its publication and FAQ is that the expiration of the mortgage insurance deduction applies to your qualified personal residence, not your rental property.

Rules for Rental Property Mortgage Insurance

You generally treat mortgage insurance on rental property loans and mortgages as an ordinary and necessary business rental expense that you deduct on Schedule E against the income from that rental property. Depending on the type of loan, you could pay the mortgage insurance either in a lump sum or annually as you make your mortgage payments.

How you treat the mortgage insurance premiums depends on how the proceeds of the loan are used, rather than on the character of the property that you mortgage. For example, you could take a mortgage on your personal residence and use the proceeds from the loan for a rental property, an investment, or personal purposes.

Planning note. You deduct the mortgage insurance on the rental properties over the period of benefit. For example, if you make a one-time payment, you amortize the mortgage insurance over the life of the loan.

If you make annual payments because of, say, a mortgagor requirement of a loan-to-equity ratio or other formula, you deduct the mortgage insurance premiums as you pay them.