A frequent question that arises when borrowing money is whether or not the interest will be tax deductible. That can be a complicated question, and unfortunately, not all interest an individual pays is deductible. The rules for deducting interest vary, depending on whether the loan proceeds are used for personal, investment, or business activities. Interest expense can fall into any of the following categories:
Because of the variety of limits imposed on interest deductions, the IRS provides special rules to allocate interest expenses among the categories. These “tracing rules,” as they are called, are generally based on the use of the loan proceeds. Thus interest expense on a debt is allocated in the same manner as the allocation of the debt to which the interest expense relates. Debt is allocated by tracing disbursements of the debt proceeds to specific expenditures, i.e., “follow the money.”
These tracing rules, combined with the restrictions associated with the various categories of interest, can create some unexpected results. Here are some examples:
Example 1: A taxpayer takes out a loan secured by his rental property and uses the proceeds to refinance the rental loan and buy a car for personal use. The taxpayer must allocate interest expense on the loan between rental interest and personal interest for the purchase of the car, and even though the loan is secured by the business property, the personal loan interest portion is not deductible.
Example 2: The taxpayer borrows $50,000 secured by his home to be used in his consulting business. He deposits the $50,000 into a checking account he only uses for his business. Since he can trace the use of the funds to his business, he can deduct the interest as a business expense.
Example 3: The taxpayer owns a rental property free and clear and wants to purchase a home to use as his personal residence. He obtains a loan on the rental to purchase the home. Under the tracing rules, the taxpayer must trace the use of the funds to their use, and as the debt was not used to acquire the rental, the interest on the loan cannot be deducted as rental interest. The funds can be traced to the purchase of the taxpayer’s home. However, for interest to be deductible as home mortgage interest, the debt must be secured by the home, which it is not. Result: the interest is not deductible anywhere.
As you can see, it is very important to plan your financing moves carefully, especially when the equity in one asset is being used to acquire another. Please call our office for assistance in applying the various interest limitations and tracing rules to ensure you don’t inadvertently get some unexpected results.