Those who meet the IRS' definition of a real estate professional have their real estate investments treated as active income. To meet this definition, you must spend at least 750 hours per year working in the real estate industry. Paid employees who own at least 5 percent of a real estate business also are considered a professional. If you are a full-time developer for your own account or a full-time real estate agent paid only on commission, you are a real estate professional. In these two instances, you can use losses from your investments to offset income you make in other real estate business activities.

Unearned income is not subject to payroll taxes. This is good news! However unearned income sources are included in your calculation of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) for federal income tax purposes. You can find your AGI on line 37 of your 1040 tax form. Most unearned income such as interest income from CDs or savings accounts, IRA withdrawals, and pension payments are taxed at your marginal tax rate. However, certain types of unearned income, such as capital gains and qualified dividends are taxed at a lower rate.


Payroll taxes are primarily Social Security and Medicare taxes. All earned income is subject to Medicare tax. That’s 2.9% (including the employer portion), plus the extra PPACA tax of 0.9% for a high earner. That’s 3.8%. What do you get for that 3.8% (which may be $20K a year or more for a high earner)? Exactly the same benefits as the guy who paid $1000 in Medicare taxes that year. And the guy who only paid Medicare taxes for 10 years and retired at 28. Doesn’t seem too fair, does it, but that’s the way it works. Social Security tax is a little better in that it goes away after $127,200 per year of earned income, but it is also a much higher tax- 12.4% including the employer portion. Social Security also gives you a little more of a benefit when you pay more into it, but the return on that “investment” is pretty poor beyond the second bend point.
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