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Renting out your house: Tax-free income for short-term landlords

It's about to get weirder and crazier than usual here in Austin.

The annual South by Southwest festival, popularly known by its acronym SXSW, begins this Friday.

This mashup of tech geeks, music fans and film aficionados brings tens of thousands of visitors to the Lone Star State's capital city.

Hotels love it. Rooms are booked months in advance and as the event has grown, folks have been forced out into the suburbs to find lodging.

This frenzied quest for a place to catch a few ZZZZs after the SXSW sessions and parties and after-parties end also could be good for local homeowners.

I can hear you, my fellow Austinites, scoffing. The crowds and traffic and general chaos are good?

Yes, if you rent out your home.

House for rent

That's right. If you decide you want to get away from the SXSW mania, you can rent your house or condo or apartment to some of out-of-towners causing the madness.

Now here's the cool tax part.

When you rent your residence for 14 days or less, you don't have to report any of the short-term rent money as income.

That's right. It's tax-free cash!

Some tax geeks must have been involved in the scheduling of SXSW. It kicks off March 11 with the interactive and film components and ends on March 20 when the last band finishes its final set as part of the music festival.

That's 10 days of SXSW, giving you four tax-free rental days to spare.

Ah, I see that cocked eyebrow and slight frown. OK. Check out the scoop from the tax folks at Thomson Reuters and the National Association of Tax Professionals.

Still skeptical? This should convince you.

Straight from the IRS' website we get Tax Topic 415, Renting Residential and Vacation Property. This tax tidbit was updated just a few days ago and says:

"There is a special rule if you use a dwelling as a home and rent it for fewer than 15 days. In this case, do not report any of the rental income and do not deduct any expenses as rental expenses."

This tax-free rent opportunity is great for SXSW, as well as for similar special festivals like Bonaroo, Sundance and assorted sporting events such as the Super Bowl, NCAA March Madness and BCS bowl games.

If any of those happenings are ever in your area, think about becoming a short-term landlord. 

The option could let you escape the craziness and pocket enough rental money to pay for your getaway.

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sustainable architects

As for property maintenance, if you are handy, go for it. Just remember that there will come a time when you'll hit a problem you can't solve. You'll also likely want to take a vacation at some point and will need emergency resources your tenants can contact.

Darius Cartmell

It's a win-win situation for both the homeowner and the vacationers, can't you say it? The homeowner gets some extra cash and the visitor gets to have a crash place after the big event! Tax-free, at that! Anything from city festivals to beachside events, we can really see this in action.

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