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    Create a Foolproof System for Keeping Track of Rental Property Expenses

    In military life, "Expect the unexpected!" becomes a way of life. Just when you think you've found a great place to settle, unexpected military orders can show up. 

    If you decide to keep your home and list it as a rental property, you know that this business requires meticulous record-keeping skills to track expenses and stay out of the IRS’s way. As you're stepping into the role of a landlord, consider these four tips for building a foolproof system for tracking rental expenses.

    Portrait of a happy young woman sitting on the city stairs and using laptop computer outdoors

    1) Review IRS Deductions

    Ultimately, as a rental property owner, your goal is to adhere to IRS regulations, keep your business running legally, and earn some profit beyond your mortgage payment. 

    Most rental property owners can deduct these rental expenses:

    • Mortgage interest 
    • Property tax 
    • Operating expenses: advertising, utilities, insurance, legal and accounting fees  
    • Depreciation
    • Repairs

    Now that you know what details to collect, you’ll need a way to sift and store the information.  

    Couple at home working on laptop computer

    Photo from Shutterstock

    2) Create a Comprehensive Rental Property Expense Log 

    Building a running record of your rental income and expenses associated with the property management business is the best way to keep your costs clear and straightforward. Creating a log also avoids overwhelming paper shuffling when tax time rolls around. It's up to you how you organize the numbers, whether it's a fancy or simple system, but many property owners start with an easy spreadsheet with categories that match their needs. 

    Our free guide for landlords offers helpful hints on how to sort and compile everything into a template, such as:

    Rental Income 

    • Rent amount
    • Late fees 

    Monthly Expenses

    • Utilities
    • Landscaping 

    Accounting Software for Small Businesses

    You may need a more complex organization system if you have more than one rental property. Consider investing in small business accounting software like QuickBooks. It’s interactive and lets you analyze your information from the rental property data in multiple ways.

    Use a Property Management App 

    If you choose a property management app, you’ll join a subset of savvy rental home business owners. Not only do the apps keep track of your expenses, they have the power to: 

    • Collect rent payments electronically with debit and credit cards, ACH transfers, and eChecks.
    • Store communication with each of your tenants for faster questions and answers. 
    • List your rental on major websites.
    • Ask potential tenants to fill out applications
    • Conduct tenant screening  
    • Send text and email reminders for payment and maintenance appointments 

    U.S. News & World Reports suggests Buildium, Rent Manager, Rentec Direct, and Tenant Cloud. 

    If you're looking for help with tenant screening, check out RentRisk!

    Active accountant checking receipts in her office

    Photo from Canva

    3) Keep Your Receipts

    If there’s ever a problem with the IRS, your receipts become crucial to defending your filing process. Regularly reviewing and reconciling receipts is essential for accuracy and compliance. Schedule time each month to update your expense log and cross-reference receipts to minimize the risk of errors.

    Hard Copies and Digital Receipts 

    Even though many receipts are electronically delivered, you’ll probably still run into a few paper receipts, so you’ll need a way to store them securely. Of course, you can go old school and use a file folder with descriptive tabs, like Pest Control or Repairs, but more and more, rental property owners are storing their receipts digitally—scanned copies don’t get lost or faded. 

    Scanning each item or taking a photo creates digital copies of the receipts to store on your computer, app, or cloud and retrieve later. Most phones have built-in scanning apps, but you can also download other options like CamScanner to help you upload and organize files. Worker cleaning up the driveway from autumn leaves-1

    Photo from Shutterstock 

    4) Set a Maintenance Schedule 

    Use an online calendar like Google Calendar (or some of the above property management apps) to establish a structured timeline for property inspections, repairs, and maintenance tasks. If you incorporate reminders for seasonal upkeep and documenting repairs, you’ll ensure detailed coverage for tax season. Documenting a timeline of when you’ve checked on the house or made repairs also eases the concerns about small issues that could become big problems.

    Property owners always need quality maintenance and repair providers. Read 3 Tips for Finding Home Maintenance Providers to help you choose quality candidates

    If you take the time to implement a system for logging expenses, receipt management, and scheduling, you’ll maximize your chances of overcoming rental property ownership challenges with ease and expertise. 

    So, don't reinvent the wheel if you’re a first-time rental property owner. Engage in online landlord/property management forums, attend professional workshops, and ask for help from experienced landlords so you can continually refine your management skills and enhance your effectiveness as a property manager.

    Create a Foolproof System for Keeping Track of Rental Property Expenses

    Dawn M. Smith


    Dawn M. Smith

    Dawn is a real estate and military life writer who has a serious HGTV habit. When she is not writing, her teen daughter, Army husband, and golden retriever keep her busy through chauffeur duties, travel planning, and long dog walks. Dawn is pleased to share her experiences with MilitaryByOwner readers who are hoping to simplify military family journeys of all kinds. Follow Dawn on Pinterest for more ideas and resources and visit her site at Dawn M. Smith Custom Content Creation.

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