18 Real Estate Agent Tax Deductions to Save Money (+ Tips & Free Download)
This article is part of a larger series on How to Become a Real Estate Agent.
Real estate tax deductions reduce your annual tax bill, which helps maximize profits. Since most agents operate as independent contractors, any commissions received do not have taxes withheld. Aside from this, common business expenses like mileage, education, meals, office supplies, phone bills, marketing, and insurance need to be documented in order to receive deductions. We’ve identified 18 real estate agent tax deductions that should be taken advantage of to save money and increase your bottom line.
Organize your expenses with an accounting application like QuickBooks, or keep track of your finances through a simple spreadsheet. Download our free realtor tax deduction tracking sheet below to get started quickly on your own.
For additional tips for saving money on your taxes, visit 10 Essential Tax Savings Tips for Small Business Owners.
1. License Expenses
All fees paid related to keeping your real estate license valid are considered necessary common business expenses. These real estate costs are typically imposed by government or professional agencies, allowing you to continue to perform your duties. These realtor tax deductions not only apply to your license renewals, but also include costs for business licenses, any application fees associated with license renewal, renewal fees for LLCs, and any business licensing costs to practice business in a different jurisdiction.
The license deduction should be itemized under the Taxes and Licenses section of your Schedule C form when completing your taxes. Most license expenses are paid on a set schedule after you become an agent, so once you get your license, keep a running spreadsheet of when and what fees are due. Include the total when calculating your real estate agent tax deductions.
Developing relationships with your clients and business network is part of growing your business as a real estate agent. Those associated with your network can be suppliers, agents, advisors, partners, assistants, and even your employees. Usually, agents are able to deduct 50% of their meal expenses. However, for 2021 and 2022 only, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 increased the deduction to 100% of meals provided by restaurants. This benefit was created to help restaurants after the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and will revert to 50% in 2023.
To help keep track of meals over the year, agents should only charge business these expenses on a single credit card dedicated to business expenses. That way, it will be easier to differentiate business meals from personal meals. Additionally, agents can export their annual charges from credit card websites to provide to your accountant or tax preparer.
3. Marketing & Advertising Expenses
Real estate agents rely heavily on marketing and advertising to promote their business. These expenses can be business cards, any print materials, radio or magazine advertisements, sponsorships, or property listings. As long as the marketing and advertising expenses are common and necessary, they are all tax deductible.
There are some exceptions to what expenses are deductible, like permanent signage for a brokerage office or any marketing related to government legislation. Agents should keep detailed receipts of each marketing expense paid throughout the year. All costs should accompany a physical receipt or invoice kept in a folder for easy access at the end of the year.
Pro tip: Most businesses provide emailed receipts rather than paper receipts. Keep a separate folder in your email or Google Drive account to save these receipts rather than having to organize and file paper copies. If you receive paper receipts, take a picture and save them instead.
If you haven’t started thinking about your marketing expenses and need to budget them into your real estate business, read through our article Real Estate Marketing Plan Template & Strategy Guide. It will provide you with a template as well as tools and software to get your real estate marketing started. Using a provider like Market Leader can help you create print and digital marketing materials, set up marketing automation, and organize your contacts with a comprehensive client relationship management (CRM) system.
4. Automobile Deductions
Agents have two options when claiming a vehicle as a tax deduction if they use a vehicle for real estate purposes to look at properties, client showings, running between closings, etc. They can select a standard mileage deduction or itemized deduction when it comes to claiming this tax benefit. Calculations for both deductions are as follows:
- Standard mileage deduction: For 2022, the standard mileage rate is 58.5 cents per mile driven for business use. If an agent drove 10,000 miles, they could deduct $5,850 for their vehicle ($0.585 x 10,000). You can also include vehicle registration and taxes, loan interest, car washes, and parking fees to the standard deduction. Agents can utilize applications like MileIQ to help keep track of business mileage expenses. Make note that standard mileage must be selected for the first year of the vehicle’s use and cannot be switched to standard after the vehicle has been used.
- Itemized deduction: This is a more complex way to calculate costs associated with vehicle maintenance. Agents will have to sum up the costs involved in vehicle maintenance, gas, parking, car washes, interest for vehicle loan, tires, and titles.
Use a mileage tracker app like TripLog or Hurdlr to keep track of your vehicle expenses and mileage. Hurdlr is a great option for self-employed individuals like real estate professionals to automate their tracking. For $10 a month, agents will get access to unlimited auto-mileage tracking, real-time tax calculation, and auto-expenses tracking. Hurdlr also has a free plan with limited features and basic reports.
Review our article 5 Best Mileage Tracker Apps for Small Businesses for more details about Hurdlr and other mileage tracking apps for your business.
5. Office Supplies & Business Equipment
If real estate agents use office supplies as part of their business, they can write them off. In addition to pens, paper, ink, and folders, agents can include furniture like office chairs, desks, or bookshelves. To help keep track of office supply expenses, agents can use an Amazon business account dedicated to business-related supplies. Personal items should be purchased under a separate personal account.
Similar to the office supplies deduction, business equipment like cell phones, computers, printers, and cameras can be fully deductible in the year purchased. The caveat to the equipment write-off is you’ll need to use it more than 50% for your real estate business. For example, if you purchase a printer and find yourself only using it for personal printing instead of real estate paperwork, then you cannot count it as a write-off.
If you purchase expensive equipment like a drone or camera, you may need to depreciate the item over a few years. Consult with your tax accountant to see which method is more beneficial.
6. Education & Training
Participating in continuing education (CE), professional development, and certifications and designations allows agents to stay competitive. Real estate agents can deduct education fees, costs for materials, and travel costs associated with completing education or training.
Since continuing education is also a requirement for license renewal, the costs of CE classes taken to apply for the renewal are also tax-deductible. However, any education expense that helps you in a new business industry is not tax-deductible. It has to be related to your current business.
There are many real estate school options for in-person and online real estate education to satisfy CE hours and get professional development. McKissock Learning offers required coursework in all 50 states in full packages or customizable individual classes. Pick and choose the courses that align with your business goals to improve your knowledge and increase your business.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) caps business gifts at $25 per person per year. Agents can obviously give gifts of higher value, but they’ll have to cap their tax deduction at $25. Gifts can include closing gifts, holiday gift baskets, and referral gifts. Depending on the purpose of the gift, agents may be able to deduct more. For example, a gift containing an agent’s branding information could be considered a marketing expense instead.
Custom gifts are an effective way to nurture relationships with your past and current clients. EvaBot automates the gift-giving process using artificial intelligence (AI) to speak with individual clients to discover their interests. Then, it will send them a custom gift that appeals to them and is within your price range.
Real estate agents are required to carry various insurance policies to protect their business. Some states, like Rhode Island and Colorado, require agents to carry errors and omissions (E&O) insurance to have a valid real estate license. Insurance expenses like general business insurance and E&O are fully deductible.
If agents have a brokerage, then they are most likely required to maintain workers’ compensation insurance for their team, which is also deductible. Agents will have to maintain a policy with an insurance company. Therefore, they are able to track their policy expenses with any payments to their insurance vendor.
Read more about insurance deductions in Pre-Tax vs Post-Tax Deductions: What Employers Should Know.
9. Phone & Internet bill
Conducting real estate business will require access to a telephone and internet. These monthly charges are modest but can add up at the end of the year. If agents or brokers have an office with internet and a landline used for receiving incoming and outgoing business calls, then they can deduct the annual cost of the internet bill and landline.
For cell phones, agents can use a percentage of their monthly bill used for business as one of the tax write-offs for real estate agents. You can track the number of calls through your cell phone provider bills and take a percentage of the monthly cost. For example, assume your monthly bill is $100, you made 100 calls in a month, and 95 of them were for business. You can then use $95 (.95 x $100) as your monthly cell phone bill write-off.
You can also deduct the cost of a new cell phone if you purchased a new one for business. Some agents have two cell phones to separate their business and personal and keep these expenses straightforward at the end of the year.
If agents find themselves traveling for business to an event or conference, most travel expenses will be fully tax-deductible. These expenses include airfare, lodging, and travel meals. However, if an agent chooses to extend their stay at a destination for personal reasons, then they must separate the expenses according to how much time was spent for business purposes.
To help keep track of travel and daily expenses, utilize an expense tracker like Zoho Expense or QuickBooks Online. For transportation during travel with rideshare apps like Uber, agents can set up a business profile to keep track of business travel and link those charges to a business credit card.
For more business expense trackers that help organize your money, check out our article 6 Best Business Expense Tracker Apps.
11. Legal & Professional Services
Professional services for your real estate business are 100% tax-deductible. This can include attorney fees, CPA, bookkeeper, consultants, and third-party marketing and advertising vendors or individuals. Deductible legal fees may also be calculated for unreimbursed costs paid on your client’s behalf relating to their property, like title searches or attorney fees for closing.
Sometimes attorneys in your network can help you with personal and business matters. To make sure you’re complying with IRS regulations, one tip to keep expenses separate is to have your attorney bill you separately for personal and business matters.
12. Commissions Paid
A real estate agent’s salary is typically comprised of commission payments for deals closed. If agents pay other agents, like a buyer’s agent or referring agent, a commission from their own gross commissions, then you can deduct the amount paid. For example, Agent A has secured a new listing and agrees to pay Agent B 30% percent of Agent A’s gross commission for bringing in buyers. That 30% total paid to Agent B is the amount you would use as your deduction.
Make sure to keep track of these expenses closely because the costs can add up quickly depending on the number of deals you close, and you want to make sure you’re paying out the right commission splits to all parties involved.
13. Association Dues
To maintain a valid real estate license, agents must pay dues to associations or organizations on an annual basis. Dues may be required to be paid to state and local real estate boards, professional organizations, or trade association fees. These dues are deductible business expenses, even if you are a part-time agent. However, if any portion of your dues are supporting any political lobbying, then that portion is not deductible.
Since these dues are usually paid annually, agents can just keep the deductions recurring yearly, unless there are any changes in fees or an increased number of associations. If agents are using an accounting software like QuickBooks, these expenses should be coded as “dues.”
14. Software Fees
Running a successful real estate business requires multiple software tools to manage different aspects of your business. The expenses in this category can make up a large portion of your annual expenses and are fully deductible.
Here are some software examples that could help with various tasks, from organization to lead generation:
- Client relationship management (CRM) software
- Lead generation companies
- Document and transaction management
- Database software
- Real estate marketing companies
- Website builders
- Social media marketing companies
To keep track of your technology stack, agents should document yearly and monthly expenses as well as any additional add-ons for quick reference.
15. Retirement Plan Contribution
Agents are independent contractors. Thus, they are usually not offered a company retirement plan to participate in. If agents choose to contribute to a retirement plan each year, they should consider maxing out the contribution to see maximum tax savings. A few plans agents can choose from:
- Self-employment Pension (SEP) IRA: Agents can contribute the lesser of 25% of compensation or $61,000 for 2022. Read about Keogh Plans and other SEP IRA plans.
- Traditional IRAs: Maximum you can contribute to your IRA is $6,000 if you’re younger than age 50, or you can add an extra $1,000 per year after 50 to max out the annual contribution at $7,000.
- Solo 401(k): Must be a business with no employees. Maximum contribution limit is $61,000 in 2022, and you can add an additional $6,500 annually if you are 50 or older. Take a look at the 6 Best Solo 401(k) Providers for 2022 to choose the best option for you.
The tax benefits of contributing to a retirement plan are to reduce your overall taxable income, which may lower your tax bracket to pay less in taxes. To track retirement savings and investment choices, agents can use a personal finance app to track annual retirement contributions.
16. Employee Payroll & Payroll Taxes
It is not uncommon for agents to hire administrative support or for brokers to hire employees when starting a brokerage. Employees can contribute to efficiency and help increase your bottom line. All hourly and salary employee wages, along with employer payroll taxes like Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and State Unemployment Taxes, are deductible. Wages may be classified as payments for salaries, bonuses, commissions, and any other taxable compensation.
To avoid any IRS mistakes, make sure to not misclassify your employees as independent contractors. Doing so can create years of back taxes.
17. Home Office
A home office can be one of the most substantial realtor tax write-offs. Real estate professionals who use a part of their home for business-related activity are allowed to write off rent, utilities, taxes, repairs, and maintenance.
There are two ways of calculating the tax deduction:
- Simple method: Multiply the square footage of the room by $5, with a maximum amount of $1,500. If you use a 200-square-foot room exclusively for business purposes, you can multiply 200 by $5 to give you a total of $1,000 you can deduct for your home office.
- Complex method: Itemize all costs related to your home and multiply that by percentage of the house used for business purposes. Cost can include mortgage or rent, insurance, repairs, or utilities. For example, if the total cost for your home is $4,000 and you use 15% of your home for business, then you can deduct $600 for your home office.
If you ever get audited by the IRS, it’s important to keep detailed receipts of all expenses related to the home if you are taking this deduction. It’s also best practice to take a photo of the space so you can have a visual idea of the square footage.
18. Desk Fees
Some brokerages will charge realtors a desk fee, which varies by agency. However, they are typically monthly flat fees to work in the broker’s office or under their broker license. Brokers charge this fee to cover expenses related to training, resources, and tools provided to the agent.
It also can cover insurance, legal costs, office supplies, and leads provided. Such expenses are usually tax-deductible if an agent pays for the costs out of pocket, but since it’s grouped into a desk fee, agents can total up annual costs and use that as one of their realtor tax deductions. Brokerages should provide a desk fee agreement, and agents should keep a copy of it for their records.
Save thousands of dollars by lowering your taxable income with tax deductions for real estate agents. To keep the required documentation of such expenses, agents should consider implementing accounting software in their day-to-day practice to track each expense. Keep receipts of expenses for at least three years in the event the IRS wants to perform an audit. The tax law can be quite complicated and ever-changing, so agents can consult a certified public accountant (CPA) to assist with navigating tax deductions.