Passive activity income often gets very different tax treatment from the ordinary income that people have. In particular, passive losses are typically deductible only against passive income, and you're not able to claim excess passive losses immediately, instead having to carry them forward. It's therefore vital to understand the tax rules surrounding passive activity income in order to assess investments in passive activities correctly.
If you have a spare bedroom, you can find a roommate or list the space on AirBnB for travelers. Having a roommate is the more passive of the two, as being an Airbnb host will require more work in the form of turning over the room between stays. This is a super painless way to earn $500 to $1,000 a month without much effort – you may even be able to cover your mortgage payment with this extra income!
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Role of “real estate professional” can be well played by a non-working or stay-at-home spouse. If you’ve got one who’s willing of course. 🙂 Under current tax law, with a spouse/real estate professional materially participating in the rental property activities, the 3.8% Medicare tax (discussed in Section 1) can be entirely avoided. So, while there is a bit of burden in meeting the requirements, this could be a great play for a Doc and a real estate professional spouse who want to take unlimited real estate losses against regular earned income AND shelter any gains from the additional 3.8% tax.
The reality of the situation is that this client doesn’t use a property management company on the rentals. I felt it was stretch to say she was a real estate professional, because she is a physician.  However, before she got her job with the clinic, she did some side work at a hospital for a few months, but never met the limits of material or active participation.  
Hey Mike! Love this article. Recently, I paid off my student loans and am crazy focused on creating multiple passive income streams. Currently, all my passive income comes from real estate and because of your great articles on the subject I called to check out refinance options! I had no clue about CD laddering, dividend investing or P2P lending until two weeks ago when I started doing my research on where to put my hard earned money. I had been just saving it but when I looked at the terrible 0.01% return I said forget it! 2 % for me is a great way to start. It is better than what I have been getting outside of my real estate. Also, creating products is a must! I’m working on this type of royalty too. I find it so exciting to learn how to use your money to make money. Thanks and I will be sure to link to you when I start my blog!
However, while most are familiar with the concept of a passive income rental property, few are actually aware of just how good of an investment they can be. Of course the right property will attract tenants with monthly cash flow, but it is important to note that the benefits of a rental property extend far beyond that of the capital they bring in. In fact, you could argue that the cash flow is an added bonus, coming in a close second to tax benefits. For what it’s worth, the tax benefits associated with a passive income property can very well be the most attractive asset sought out by landlords.
The big difference in Real Estate is leverage which can be either good or bad depending on your timing and wiliness to stay long term and ride out the dips. Think about having one million dollars in single family California Real Estate in 2012, in November 2013 it’s now worth 30-50% more, timing is important but staying in the game long term is what it’s about.
I have to agree. Our Duplex cost us 200k initially in 1998. Over time and completely refurbishing the property with historically appropriate sensitivity, we invested another 200k or so. We just had a realtor advise us we could ask 700k for it today. It nets us 30k annually after taxes, insurance and maintenance. We still have a loan on it which I have not taken into account, that will be paid off within 5 years if we keep it. My mental drama now is, while I am quite giddy over the prospect of earning a tidy sum of profit if I sell, what then would I do to equal the ROI and monthly income this thing generates? Rents are low, they should be 4k a month and will only go up. Tempted to keep it and not sell. And while I do have some stocks, I basically suck at them. I am much better at doing properties.
Blogging is still going to take work starting out. That path to $5,000 a month didn’t happen overnight but just like real estate development, it build up an asset that now creates constant cash flow whether I work or not. I get over 30,000 visitors a month from Google search rankings, rankings that will continue to send traffic even if I take a little time off.
According to Congressional Budget Office figures from 2011, the top 1 percent of taxpayers pay an average of 29.5 percent, those in the percentiles from 81 percent to 99 percent pay 22.8 percent, those from 21 percent through 80 percent pay 15.1 percent, and the bottom 20 percent pay 4.7 percent. Those numbers, of course, don’t include the 49.5 percent of Americans who pay no federal income tax at all.
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3. Travel Resulting From Rental Activity: Far too many passive income investors are not aware of the tax deductions that extend beyond the physical upkeep of a property. Having said that, it is entirely possible to deduct the amount of money you spend traveling for the sake of running and maintaining the property. Anywhere you drive for the sake of the rental, which includes visits to the property itself, can mount to travel expenses. Most notably, you can deduct the actual expenses incurred while traveling (gas, upkeep, repairs, etc). To clarify, travel expenses must be common, helpful, appropriate for your rental activity and — above all else — be solely for rental activities. Much like the repairs made on a property, deductions resulting from travel costs must be made in the same year they were incurred.
If you make the choice, it is binding for the tax year you make it and for any later year that you are a real estate professional. This is true even if you aren’t a real estate professional in any intervening year. (For that year, the exception for real estate professionals won’t apply in determining whether your activity is subject to the passive activity rules.)
For those of you who don’t want to come up with a $220,000 downpayment and a $900,000 mortgage to buy the median home in SF or NYC, who don’t want to deal with tenants or remodeling, and who wants to not do any work after the investment is made, check out Fundrise. They are my favorite real estate crowdsourcing company founded in 2012 and based in Washington DC. They are pioneers in the eREIT product offering and they’re raising an Opportunity Fund to take advantage of new tax favorable laws.
Lauren Perez, CEPF® Lauren Perez writes on a variety of personal finance topics for SmartAsset, with a special expertise in savings, banking and credit cards. She is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®) and a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. Lauren has a degree in English from the University of Rochester where she focused on Language, Media and Communications. She is originally from Los Angeles. While prone to the occasional shopping spree, Lauren has been aware of the importance of money management and savings since she was young. Lauren loves being able to make credit card and retirement account recommendations to friends and family based on the hours of research she completes at SmartAsset.
We pitched to an angel investor group. They were very excited about the idea but wanted to know who amongst us (doctor, accountant, salesman) was doing the coding. When they heard we were outsourcing it, the wind went out of their sails immediately. They did want to meet with us again once we brought a coder on board but that person proved elusive to find. Coders in our area are looking for the steady paycheck, not willing to gamble on a startup.
Lending Club went public in 2014 and is now worth about $1.7B. They advertise P2P lending returns of over 7% for well-diversified portfolios of over 100 notes. I’ve personally been able to achieve a 7.4% annual return over the past two years in a completely passive way by investing in A and AA notes. Others have achieved a 10% annual return through relatively minimum effort.
The equipment leasing exclusion also isn’t available for leasing activities related to other at-risk activities, such as motion picture films and video tapes, farming, oil and gas properties, and geothermal deposits. For example, if a closely held corporation leases a video tape, it can’t exclude this leasing activity from the at-risk rules under the equipment leasing exclusion.
Some retirees start consulting businesses, do handy-man work, or in some other way become self-employed. Many are caught off guard by the payroll/FICA tax and can get behind on taxes once they become self-employed. If you become self-employed be sure to work with a good tax professional who can help you calculate the right amount of payroll tax to send in, otherwise April 15th will be a very unpleasant time of year for you. 

Personal property and services that are incidental to making real property available as living accommodations are included in the activity of holding real property. For example, making personal property, such as furniture, and services available when renting a hotel or motel room or a furnished apartment is considered incidental to making real property available as living accommodations.

If you can max out your 401k or max out your IRA and then save an additional 20%+ of your after-tax, after-retirement contribution, good things really start to happen. If one is looking for earlier financial independence, such as retiring in their 40s or early 50s, it may be a good idea to skew towards more after-tax savings and investments given one has to wait until 59.5 to withdraw from their 401k or IRA penalty-free.
A Risk Score of 10 means no risk. A Return Score of 1 means the returns are horrible compared to the risk-free rate. A Feasibility score of 10 means everybody can do it. A Liquidity Score of 1 means it’s very difficult to withdraw your money without a massive penalty. An Activity Score of 10 means you can kick back and do nothing to earn income. To make the ranking as realistic as possible, every score is relative to each other. Furthermore, the return criteria is based off trying to generate $10,000 a year in passive income.
Overall, generating passive income mostly provides benefits. First and foremost, you’re able to make money without using too much of your time. Of course the time you actually spend will depend on your passive income venture, as will the amount of money you put into it. The key is to find the right balance for your existing lifestyle so that you turn a profit without too much spent.

I agree mostly with the real estate advice. I’m looking for ways to take advantage of the condo I own to get up the rent from ~$0.90/ft to the $1.2-1.5/ft that seems more like the range in the same area. I’d have to put in a bit of capital (probably 10k on the low end for just the basics up to 40k if I wanted to remodel the kitchen and 2 bathrooms up to par with the area), so the return is likely there if those upgrades warrant $1.30/ft (given the unit is larger than most 2br/2ba in the area).
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