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Maximizing your property's potential: the Augusta Rule explained

ARTICLE | December 01, 2023

The Internal Revenue Code Section 280A provides a unique opportunity for property owners: a lesser-known tax break called the Augusta Rule. Under this section, homeowners can rent out their homes for up to 14 days per year without having to pay federal taxes on the income. 

Also known as the “Masters Rule,” due to its association with the annual Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia, this exemption is particularly useful for those who own property in locations that host major events, such as sporting events, festivals, or conferences. However, this rule can also benefit savvy business owners if used strategically. 

Benefits of the Augusta Rule

For a homeowner, the Augusta Rule offers the potential for tax-free income. For instance, if you’re planning to be out of town or need some extra cash, you can rent out your home for up to 14 days. The rule doesn’t restrict the amount you can earn, allowing you to make thousands of dollars tax-free, provided the rental rates are competitive with local hotels or other rentals in your area. 

The Augusta Rule can also present a unique tax strategy for business owners. A business owner can rent their home to their business for short-term use, such as meetings or company retreats. This strategy allows the business to claim a deduction for the rent paid while the homeowner benefits from the tax-free income. 

For example, a business owner could host a monthly board of directors meeting at their home and charge the business a reasonable rental fee. Provided the total rental period does not exceed 14 days in a year, the business can deduct the rental payment on its tax return, while the homeowner does not need to pay federal taxes on the rental income.

Eligibility criteria

While the Augusta Rule can be a valuable tax strategy, it’s crucial to ensure compliance with its guidelines. 

To be eligible for the exemption: 

  • The property must be located in the United States.

  • The property in question must be your personal residence, although it doesn’t have to be your primary residence. 

  • It cannot be a primary place of business. 

  • The property cannot be rented for more than 14 days throughout the year. 

  • The rental must be at fair market value.

Potential pitfalls and limitations

First and foremost, you must research and adhere to any local or homeowners’ association rules regarding short-term rentals. Some municipalities and organizations may have regulations that could affect your ability to rent out your property, even for a brief period. 

Equally important is the matter of insurance. Traditional homeowner’s insurance policies may not offer coverage for activities related to short-term rentals, which could leave you exposed to financial risks in the event of property damage or other liabilities. As such, it’s wise to review your current insurance policy and consider acquiring additional coverage specifically tailored to short-term rental activities to safeguard your assets. 

Another specific consideration is the treatment of a home office. If your business already pays rent for a home office, you need to carefully ensure the office or home rental does not violate the 14-day rule. 

Best practices for implementing the Augusta Rule

To fully harness the benefits of the Augusta Rule without stepping into legal pitfalls, here are some best practices to keep in mind: 

#1 Meticulous record-keeping 

Document every aspect of the rental, including a rental agreement. If your business is renting the home, keep minutes or records of the meetings, lists of attendees, and any other pertinent documentation to prove legitimate business use. 

#2 Document market rate comparisons

It is essential to ensure the rental rate aligns with fair market value. This requirement is especially critical when the property is being rented to your own business for uses like meetings or retreats. The IRS requires that the rental rate charged in such transactions reflects what would be expected if the transaction were conducted between unrelated parties. 

To substantiate the rental fee for your business, obtain quotes from local event venues, hotels, or other properties typically rented for corporate events and retreats. These comparables should aim to match the type of space being rented in terms of size, location, and amenities. By doing so, you can demonstrate that the price you are charging the business is consistent with what you would charge a third party, thus ensuring the transaction does not raise any red flags. 

#3 Issue a 1099-MISC and report the income

If your business is renting the property, you should issue a 1099-MISC form for the rental amount paid. This serves as an official record of the rental expense for the business and the rental income for the homeowner, which, despite being excluded from taxable income under the Augusta Rule, must still be reported on one’s personal tax return. 

With strategic planning, homeowners and business owners alike can reap the benefits of the Augusta Rule. However, like any tax strategy, it requires attention to detail and adherence to all regulatory requirements. While this article provides a brief overview of the Augusta Rule, it is not a substitute for speaking with one of our expert advisors. For more information, please contact our office. 

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HMA CPA offers a full range of tax, accounting and consulting services for closely held businesses, their owners, and high net worth individuals. We value relationships and are committed to providing close, personal attention to our clients. Though our experience spans over 35 years in the accounting field, we also keep current with ongoing professional education so we can provide you with outstanding technical support and customer service.

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