11 Tax Deductions Every Real Estate Agent Should Know About

March 23, 2021

For busy real estate agents who manage their own finances, it can be hard to find time (and energy) to get expenses in order. Luckily, the Internal Revenue Service recently announced an extension to file for the 2020 tax year, stating: “This postponement applies to individual taxpayers, including individuals who pay self-employment taxes.” These groups now have until May 17, 2021, to file. It is important to note that this extension does not apply to state taxes. For the most accurate state tax information, the IRS urges everyone to check with their respective state agencies

Those affected by winter storms in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas may also benefit from additional extensions. “These states have until June 15, 2021, to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments,” the IRS states.

Although you may benefit from an extended timeline, do not push these tasks to the bottom of your priority list. Setting aside time now can save you thousands of dollars in the near future.

To help kick-start your preparations, we’ve outlined several tax deductions that you should not overlook. From commissions paid to home office expenses, there are several activities that could reduce the amount owed to the IRS. 

Deduction #1: Commissions Paid

Did you know that commissions you pay to other agents or employees that work with or under you are generally fully deductible business expenses? This is a deduction you should not overlook since commissions can add up quickly! 

Deduction #2: Home Office 

If you conduct business out of your home (or parts of it), you can take advantage of the home office deduction – unless you are deducting desk fees already (see deduction number three). Like the vehicle deduction, the home office deduction offers two options: the regular method or a simplified method. Most self-employed people find that the simplified method maximizes their deduction.

However, before pursuing this option, know that your home office has to be used regularly and exclusively as the principal place of business. This means your bed, porch swing, and kitchen table do not count as deductible expenses.

Deduction #3: Desk Fees

Whether you are hanging your license under a national franchise or with an independent broker, your desk fees are deductible. (Remember though, if you’re taking the deduction for brokerage desk fees, you will not be able to claim the home office deduction mentioned above.)

Deduction #4: Education and Training

Given rapid industry change, continuing education is a great way to stay competitive. Taking training courses like BOLD to further your professional education and maximize your potential? You may be able to deduct your registration fees, related materials, and certain travel costs. There a several requirements:

  • The training and education cannot qualify you for a different trade or business.
  • The training cannot be for the purpose of meeting minimum educational requirements.
  • The training course(s) must maintain or improve the skill related to your field of real estate.

Deduction #5: Marketing and Advertising Expenses

Digital and online advertising costs are quickly becoming the greatest area of spending. Advertising expenses such as marketing materials, staging, photography, and signage can all be deductible through the Internal Revenue Service’s advertising expense deduction. This is one of the best deductions because of its broad requirements!

Deduction #6: Standard Auto

Between showings, listing presentations, and more, miles can rack up fast. With the standard auto deduction, every mile you drive for your business can be deducted from your taxes. If you drive 10,000 miles or more annually for your real estate business, it’s likely you’ll get the greatest tax benefit by taking the standard mileage deduction. However, if you’re a lower mileage driver or have especially high car payments, the actual cost method may yield a higher deduction.

Deduction #7: Office Supplies and Equipment

Whether you’re taking desk fees or home-office deductions, you can still claim other office-related expenses including stationery, photocopies, and any other consumables needed to run your business. Furniture, fax machines, copiers, computers, or your telephone (and associated bill) can also be expensed in full or depreciated over a number of years.

If you have a dedicated landline telephone for business, you can fully deduct this expense. If you use your cell phone only, you are eligible to deduct the business percentage of that expense.

Deduction #8: Meals

There are two situations in which you can deduct meals as a business expense: when you are travelling on business, and when you are dining with clients or with other professionals for the purpose of conducting business or generating referral business. In both situations, you can deduct 50% of your total expense, which includes tax and tip for the meal.

Deduction #9: Fees, Licenses, Memberships, and Insurance

Annual fees are a common cost of doing business and are deductible. In real estate, that means your state license renewal, professional memberships, and MLS dues. An important caveat with regard to professional memberships: the portion of your membership dues attributable to lobbying and political advocacy is not deductible.

General business insurance and errors and omissions (E&O) insurance are both fully deductible business expenses. Additionally, you can deduct real estate taxes necessary for your business, but not self-employment taxes.

Deduction #10:  Software and Business Tools

Any software needed to run your business is fully deductible – including lead-generation subscription services such as customer relationship management (CRM) software. Products that help you automatically track your expenses and mileage may be fully deducted as well.

Deduction #11: Gifts

All of the amazing client gifts that you gave out over the course of the year are deductible as long as you follow the IRS’s stipulations:

  • You deduct no more than $25 of the cost of business gifts you give directly or indirectly to each person during the tax year. 
  • If you and your spouse both give gifts to the same person, you are treated as one tax payer.
  • Incidental costs (engraving, packaging, shipping) are not included in the $25 limit if they don’t add substantial value to the gift
  • Do not consider gifts $4.00 or less that you have your business name permanently engraved on the item, which you distribute on a regular basis.
  • You have records proving the business purpose of the gift as well as details of the amount spent.

Finally, it is always important to keep in mind that to be deductible, your real estate business expenses must be directly related to your business, ordinary and necessary. For detailed list on tax deductions, refer to IRS Publication 535 and don’t forget to consult your own legal or financial advisor and verify all information to your satisfaction.

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  • Patrick says:

    In regards to deducting commissions, does this include the commissions paid to the buyers agent when you are acting as the listing agent?

    • ROBERT W QUESADA says:

      No, since the commission is taken out at the attorneys. Normally, to take the commission off it would have been paid to you, but pay it for the referral fee.

  • Dana Spidel says:

    Great to know our client gift deductible amount is only $25. Thank you!

  • Newton F Freeland says:

    I have been told that a gift that contains your name, contact information, etc. can be claimed even if it exceeds $25.
    Is that true?
    Butch Freeland

    • Ada Ciuca says:

      Hi Butch,

      Thank you for your comment. For any additional questions and clarifications, we recommend consulting a financial advisor and verifying all information to your satisfaction.

    • Brenda Hayden says:

      If it’s branded then the gift is considered marketing material, thus deductable.

  • Ranggg2002 says:

    I’m hoping somebody can answer this question for me. Normally you can Deduct home office expenses for the 12 months you use your office exclusively. If someone is on unemployment for nine months but of course you’re still trying to conduct work you’re just not making any money, do you only deduct the office for three months or do you use it for the whole 12?

  • Andrew says:

    Can you deduct inspections if you pay for them on behalf of your client?

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