Repairing and maintaining a rental: what counts as a workday?

June 11, 2014 by Dave Du Val, EA
Room partially painted

Hey Dave,

How do you know if you have spent "substantially full time" repairing and maintaining a rental property when you stay in it so it doesn't count as a personal day? What records do you need to keep to document the full time nature?

Jamie

 

Hi Jamie,

You are smart to question this now and not at the end of an audit! While I wish there was a simple answer, there is no black-and-white number provided by the code and regulations. In an audit, the facts and circumstances would be used to determine what “substantially full time” means, on a case by case basis.

Let’s look at some examples:

Just say I spent 90 days during the year (Dec-Feb) at my ski chalet and “claimed” I spent the entire time fixing up the condo while there was 3 feet of fresh snow on the hill right outside the front door. The IRS could clearly challenge this and ask me to show them proof of these “repairs” by asking for receipts, pictures, and logs, among other things.

On the other end of the spectrum, just say I claim to have spent 7 days during the entire year at the chalet and 3 of those days were used to paint the entire inside of the building. This would not likely be challenged, and, if it was, I would have receipts for the paint I bought and the cost would also be on my tax return.

Now for the grey area in between: be sure you can prove in one manner or another that your stated time repairing and maintaining the rental is accurate.  Clearly, it is not enough to say, “Just trust me on this as I was cleaning the place up all day.”

Deductibly yours,

Dave

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