Using a HELOC or Cash-out Refi for a Rental Property

Ultimate Real Estate Investor Tax Guide ยป

What if you use a loan secured with one property for another rental property or other purpose? For example, you might take out a HELOC or cash-out refinance on your personal residence, and use that money to buy a rental property, or to improve a rental property. In that case, the interest on that loan is deductible as an expense for the rental property because the money is used for the rental property.

The property that is securing the loan might be your residence (or another rental property), but generally the property securing the loan doesn’t matter. What matters is how the money is used. This is called the loan tracing rules (see IRS publication 535, Allocation of Interest subsection).

By the way, if you take out a HELOC or second mortgage on your rental property, and use that money for personal purposes, the interest on that loan wouldn’t be deductible as a rental expense. It would only be a deductible loan if the money is used on the rental property.

Allocation of Interest from One Loan for Multiple Uses

To keep things simple, it’s best if you use all the funds from each loan or line of credit for just one purpose. But sometimes that’s not an option.

If you use the money from a loan for more than one purpose, then you must allocate the percentage of the interest that goes to each purpose. For example, let’s say you withdraw $100,000 from a HELOC on your home, and you use $50,000 (50%) of it as a down payment for a rental property, $40,000 (40%) to renovate your home’s kitchen, and the remaining $10,000 (10%) you spend on a vacation. In that case, 50% of the interest can be deducted on your Schedule E as interest expense for your rental property. Since a portion of the loan was used for home improvement, that 40% of the interest can potentially be entered on your Schedule A as your home mortgage interest (if you itemize). And the remaining 10% of the interest isn’t deductible because it was used for personal use.

The same allocation of interest applies even if you take out money from a line of credit at different times. It’s treated as one loan if all the money comes from one line of credit and it all accrues the same interest rate, until you pay off the line of credit.

If you partially repay the loan or line of credit, then it is treated as being repaid in this specific order:

  1. Personal use
  2. Investment/passive activities (except those in #3 below)
  3. Rental real estate passive activities where have active participation
  4. Former passive activities
  5. Trade/business use for certain low-income housing projects (rare)

Transaction Ordering in a Bank Account

If you borrow money and deposit those funds into your bank account that is used for other purposes, it’s generally best to make the expenditures to use those funds within 30 days before or 30 days after the loan funds are deposited in the account. If the funds remain in the account longer than 30 days before they are put to use, the funds may be deemed to have been used for whatever transactions occur after the loan funds deposit. All the specific rules get a little complicated in that situation, but see “order of funds spent” in IRS publication 535 for details.

This article is part of The Ultimate Real Estate Investor Tax Guide.

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David Orr

I am a credentialed tax professional with a primary focus on tax preparation and advising for real estate investors. Have tax questions or want me to do your taxes? Contact us.

This article was written or updated in 2023 or 2024 and is current for the 2023 and 2024 tax years.

The information presented here is meant for guidance purposes only, and not as personal legal or tax advice.