Investors turn to real estate as a way to build long-term wealth, earn additional income, and generate a tax shelter. Using real estate as a tax shelter that extends to other income can be a complicated process. Knowing how you can use any losses generated by your rental real estate starts with understanding how the IRS defines and treats passive and active income.
​I’ve been into home décor lately and I had to turn to Etsy to find exactly what I wanted. I ended up purchasing digital files of the artwork I wanted printed out! The seller had made a bunch of wall art, digitized, and listed it on Etsy for instant download. There are other popular digital files on Etsy as well such as monthly planners. If you’re into graphic design this could be an amazing passive income idea for you.

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Employees and self-employed people have to pay federal income tax on earnings related to work, but the government also imposes income tax on various sources of passive income. Passive income or unearned income describes income that does not require active work, such as interest credited to savings accounts and investment income. The federal income tax rate on unearned income varies from one type of passive income to another. Note that the tax rate for passive income will differ for the 2018 tax year, as the new tax bill signed in December, 2017 changes some of these provisions.
In expensive cities like San Francisco and New York City, net rental yields can fall as low as 2%. This is a sign that there is a lot of liquidity buying property for property appreciation, and not so much for income generation. This is a riskier proposition than buying property based on rental income. In inexpensive cities, such as those in the Midwest, net rental yields can easily be in the range of 8% – 12%, although appreciation may be slower.
In the Tax Court Case of  Stephen P. Hardy, et ux. v. Commissioner, TC Memo 2017-16.  Dr. Stephen P. Hardy is a plastic surgeon who has specialized in pediatric reconstructive surgery since the early nineties. He conducted his medical practice through Northwest Plastic Surgery Associates, which is a single member PLLC. Mrs. Hardy is the chief operating officer. Previously, Dr. Hardy performed operations either at his office or at two local hospitals.

That strategy seems waaaayyyy less risky than actively picking stocks of supposedly “reliable” stocks that issue dividends, which could be cut at any time due to shifting industry trends and company performance. Dividend investing feels like an overly complex old-school way of investing that doesn’t have a very strong intellectual basis compared to index investing.
The key here is that income from equipment leasing or rental real estate is generally treated as passive income, with only limited exceptions. Other businesses, including sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies, and S corporations, produce passive income if the individual taxpayer in question doesn't meet the standard for material participation.
Unfortunately, I can’t answer that conclusively one way or the other. It all depends on you, what you like to do, your work ethic, personality, etc. If you are a good writer perhaps you could write a book and make money that way. Or, you could start your own website and do affiliate marketing. Just because you are young it doesn’t mean you can’t make money doing at least a few of these ideas. I wish you luck in your money making efforts!
This article is great, defining the differences and emphasizing the advantages of passive income. I believe it might be helpful to list some of the tax advantages of passive income vs active income as well. These include and are not limited to: cash-flow, being able to claim depreciation, deductable loan interest, tax free refinancing and deferred taxes on sale of property via 1031 exchanges. It’s the difference between 50% taxed income and potential tax free income.

Sharon, you missed my point completely. If you feel you need $8000/month to live the life you want, and you get that $8000/month through passive income, you may feel financially free for a few months. However, next year, you’re not going to be wanting $8000/month + 3% inflation; you’re going to be wanting $16,000/month. This is greed 101. It’s normal. It’s natural.
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I’ve never invested in real estate (except to live in), but am always intrigued by communities like FS who seem to have such a passion for it. My intrigue stems back to my earlier comments that the long term trends in appreciation in real estate are simply not very competitive versus equities, despite what Robert Kiyosaki had to say in his book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad.
2. Focus on income-producing assets. Internet growth stocks may be sexy, but they provide no income. To build a large enough passive-income stream to survive, you must invest in dividend-generating stocks, certificates of deposit, municipal bonds, government Treasury bonds, corporate bonds, and real estate. You're free to invest in non-income-producing assets for capital appreciation too. You just want to earn reliable income when the day comes to leave your job.
Peer-to-peer lending means loaning money to other people. Specifically, you lend money to people who don’t qualify for traditional financing. Companies like Lending Club and Prosper offer returns in the range of 4-10%, which are a lot higher than a typical saving account. You will be able to select the right investment for you, based on your risk assessment strategy.
The new rules may not impact you much unless you have a sizeable passive investment portfolio in your corporation. Keep in mind that a $1 million corporate investment portfolio which  generates a 7% rate of return will generate $70,000 of return, but not all of that return may be taxable as a portion could be attributable to unrealized appreciation from stocks, for example.
I wanted these freedoms so I began pursuing a means to have those, which in my case ended up being starting my own company that I could work from anywhere and with no deadlines whatsoever (although the no deadline thing does make things hard sometimes). The income from that company is planned to continue buying more passive income investments so eventually I hit total financial freedom where I can keep living my current lifestyle minus the work part. All of this is called “lifestyle design.”
Active Income Investments: Flipping and wholesaling. You have to do work in order to see money from these. You have to be hands-on. Note: I do still stand by my argument that wholesaling is not actually an investment at all, but for the sake of so many people thinking it is, I am including it. Another note: It is possible, if you are really slick and good, that you could be decently hands-off for a flip. But that is long down the road of being an advanced flipper so for now, I’m leaving it here.
Real estate crowdfunding presents a middle-ground solution. Investors have their choice of equity or debt investments in both commercial and residential properties. Unlike a REIT, the investor gets the tax advantages of direct ownership, including the depreciation deduction without any of the added responsibilities that go along with owning a property.
If you have a small amount of money and you want to create passive income, but you don’t know anything about investment, try to read some blogs about the stock market. Do not go to a financial advisor, they will take you a lot of money, and if you don’t want to invest 100k, it’s better to try that by yourself. You can read Rich Dad Poor Dad to get a necessary explication about the financial world.

The at-risk rules limit your losses from most activities to your amount at risk in the activity. You treat any loss that’s disallowed because of the at-risk limits as a deduction from the same activity in the next tax year. If your losses from an at-risk activity are allowed, they’re subject to recapture in later years if your amount at risk is reduced below zero.

Great argument for passive income but want more meat on the bone on “passive income” information. We all feel screwed by the progressive tax system. Most of us probably think our dividends and cap gains are passive. True, but the real wealth, sans ceiling, resides within more risky ventures like entrepreneurship and real estate. While appealing, I’m too busy for all that at the level I need to be for success. It took me 2 years (starting with your blog) of reading financial books and blogs before I was ready to DIY invest. Several years, 2 kids and a slamming practice later, I just don’t have the time to read up on other passive avenues. Plus, I’m pretty content with my dividend and cap gains (while they last) and would rather see patients than take a call about a rental house. Maybe when the kids grow up a bit and I scale my practice back, your ideas will fall in more fertile soil. Until then, I look forward to future posts and comments.


I had to get out. I actually had this random Facebook ad come up in my news feed (go figure) and it eventually led me to a webinar that taught on how to start an email marketing business (which is, by the way, the most profitable form of affiliate marketing – or ANY marketing for that matter). I listened through the whole 2 hours, completely mesmerized. By the end of it, I knew what I was going to be focusing on to help my family out of the pit of debt we were in and into a world free of financial stress. I didn’t know if it would actually work, but eventually it lead to EXCESS income!
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