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If you own your own home, you've probably arranged for family or friends to take care of it while you're traveling. But if you'll be away for a while, renting it is another option. If you're considering this, you should be aware of some tax issues.


As a rule, renting your home converts the home from personal to business use, disqualifying it as a primary residence and tax home. That means that you'd no longer be "duplicating" expenses and thus wouldn't qualify for tax-free housing, meal allowances, and other benefits of traveling. But don't despair: There are two ways you can claim the dwelling as your tax home and rent it.


The first is a partial rental. This arrangement reserves a portion of the home for your personal use, and you occupy that portion when you return home. For example, if your home has three bedrooms, you could rent two and use the third for yourself. With this arrangement, you can still claim appropriate expenses for the rental portion. This can work well if you rent to family or close friends but may be awkward if the tenants are strangers.


The second alternative is a "not for profit" rental. This is a rental significantly below fair market rental value of the area; because there isn't a profit motive, your home remains a residence as long as you use it as your primary place of lodging. You need to report the rental income but can claim expenses up to the amount you get from the renters.


There's one other option to consider, if you're willing to travel without a tax home: You can rent the home for profit and hire a property manager or trusted friend to oversee it. You lose the tax breaks that maintaining a tax home offers (your housing and travel reimbursements will become taxable and you can't claim meal allowances), but being free of the responsibility of maintaining a tax home may be worth it.




Joseph Smith, EA, RRT, Send your questions for him to