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Smart Repairs: Repair Your Properties—Don’t Improve Them

Hey there, property owners and landlords! We're here to talk about a savvy financial strategy that could significantly impact your bottom line. It's time to shift our focus from expensive improvements to smart repairs, and we'll show you how these repairs can save you money and boost your cash flow.

The Value of Repair Deductions vs. Depreciation Deductions

Let's start with a fact: repair deductions can bring in far more after-tax cash than depreciation deductions. If you're scratching your head wondering why, we've got the answers.

Depreciation Deductions—The First Strike

Depreciation deductions, which are often associated with business or rental properties, might not be as impressive as they seem. Why, you ask? Well, it all comes down to recapture taxes.

When you sell a property, any gain is subject to a special capital gains recapture tax of up to 25 percent of the straight-line depreciation you claimed on the building. In essence, you end up owing the IRS a portion of the depreciation you took as a deduction when you sell the property at a profit. This recapture tax is like paying back a loan, but to the government.

Let's break it down with an example. Say you depreciated your office building by $50,000 using straight-line depreciation. You sell the building later for a profit of $200,000. You'll owe 25 percent tax on the $50,000 depreciation, in addition to the regular capital gains tax on the rest of the profit.

In short, depreciation deductions can feel like a profit-sharing arrangement where the government gets a cut of your gains. And this sharing doesn't necessarily benefit you.

The Power of Repairs Over Depreciation

Repair deductions, on the other hand, have a more immediate impact on your cash flow. Let's say you're spending $30,000 on repairs for your business property. If you're in the 28 percent tax bracket and you treat these expenses as repairs, you'll pocket $8,400 in after-tax cash.

Compare this to capital expenditure, where you'd depreciate around $769 a year for 39 years, resulting in a mere $215 annually in your pocket (assuming a 28 percent tax rate). The stark difference becomes evident when you consider the time value of money. The repair deduction proves to be around 246 percent more valuable than the depreciation deduction, thanks to the immediate cash benefit.

The Ultimate Combo—Striking Out Depreciation

Now, imagine selling the property down the line. If you have to pay recapture tax on the depreciation you claimed, that's 25 percent of your gain. This recapture tax is higher than the standard capital gains tax. However, if you had used the same funds for repairs, your capital gains tax would be lower. Taking into account the time value of money, the repair option turns out to be 271 percent more valuable than opting for improvements.

Why Repairs Are Your Best Bet

We ran the numbers through the Rental Property Analyzer and the results were eye-opening. By opting for repairs instead of improvements, you can potentially increase your annual rate of investment return by a substantial 37.6 percent. This kind of boost in returns can make a real difference over a relatively short period.

Even if you're faced with passive loss rules that restrict annual deductions for losses, repairs still come out ahead. In fact, the rate of return can increase by up to 17 percent, showcasing the enduring value of repair deductions.

In a Nutshell

Repair deductions have a clear upper hand over depreciation deductions when it comes to after-tax cash flow. The burden of recapture taxes diminishes the benefits of depreciation deductions, making repairs the smarter financial choice. Plus, the immediate impact and potential for increased returns make repairs a win-win strategy for property owners and landlords. So, next time you're considering property-related expenses, remember: repairs trump improvements in more ways than one.

You can reach our CEO and Owner Peter Ellefson anytime at

Disclaimer: Laws and regulations are subject to change, and readers are advised to consult EPL advisors for personalized advice and compliance with specific state requirements. This information is not specific advice and is meant for general education.


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