Maximize Your Tax Benefits: Passive Loss Carryover And What It Means For You

Imagine the potential tax savings and optimization of your investment returns if you could carry forward losses from your passive investments from one year to the next, in order to offset future gains. The good news is – you can!

It’s like this. Have you ever saved a seat for someone? For example, when I was little, I used to ride the bus to school. And every day, I would save a seat for my best friend, knowing that she would get on the bus a few stops after me.

Even though it’s not quite so simple, the concept of “saving a spot” can also apply to your taxes, and when done right, you can use it to maximize your overall tax benefits.

Yes indeedy, we’re talking about passive loss carryover, a powerful tool for real estate investors and other passive income earners, which allows you to “save a spot” in order to offset current and future gains.

So, are you ready to unlock the benefits of passive loss carryover and boost your investment strategy and help you fast-track your path to financial freedom?

In this blog post, we’ll explore the ins and outs of passive loss carryover, its application in real estate investing, and strategies to maximize its potential. We’ll also delve into the tax implications and share real-life examples to help you understand how passive loss carryover can work for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand Passive Loss Carryover to maximize tax benefits.

  • Utilize strategies such as material participation tests, accumulating passive gains and record keeping for optimal results.

  • Real estate syndications and 1031 exchanges are effective methods of utilizing the advantages of Passive Loss Carryover.

Obligatory Disclaimer: Before we proceed, you should know that we are not CPAs. We don’t pretend to be CPAs, and we bow down to them. The information contained in this article is merely based on our limited non-CPA brains and our personal understanding of how tax regulations apply to real estate investors at a high level. Please take a “trust but verify” approach with everything you read here, and double-check with your own CPA regarding your unique tax situation.

With that, let’s get to it!

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Understanding Passive Loss Carryover

Real estate investor reviewing the rules for passive loss carryover

Passive loss carryover is a tax advantage that enables investors to counterbalance passive losses with future passive gains, leading to tax savings and improved investment returns.

Passive losses often arise from rental property depreciation, cost segregation and accelerated depreciation through commercial real estate syndications, and other trade or business activities in which the investor does not materially participate.

In contrast, passive income or gains are generated from rental property income, cash flow from real estate syndication investments, or other income-producing enterprises in which you as the taxpayer does not materially participate.

The ability to carry forward passive losses allows investors to reduce their taxable income in future years. This reduces immediate tax liabilities while contributing to the long-term stability of an investment portfolio. However, there are certain limitations and restrictions that investors should be aware of when utilizing passive loss carryover.

How Passive Loss Carryover Works

Passive loss carryover allows for unused passive losses to be transferred to future tax years, offsetting passive income and reducing taxable income.

For example, let’s say that you were to invest in a real estate syndication before the end of this year. Next spring, when you receive the K-1 for your taxes, it shows a $40,000 loss for this investment.

Now let’s say that your passive income in that same calendar year was $5,000. Assuming you apply $5,000 of the passive losses toward that gain, that leaves $35,000 of passive losses eligible to be carried forward for future years.

$40,000 passive loss – $5,000 passive gain = $35,000 passive loss carryover

Passive losses are generated when deductions from passive activities exceed the passive activity gross income. It is important to note that passive losses can only be used to offset passive income, not other types of income.

For example, suppose you have a rental property that generates a passive loss due to depreciation and other operating expenses. This passive loss can be carried over to future tax years and used to offset passive income from the same rental property or other passive activities. In doing so, you reduce your overall taxable income and potentially save on taxes.

Limitations And Restrictions

The IRS sets certain limitations and restrictions on the use of passive loss carryover. One of these restrictions is the inability to offset passive losses against active income.

In other words, you can’t use your passive losses to offset taxes you owe on your ordinary income (like the salary from your job, for example). The passive losses can only be used to offset passive income, not active. Unless, that is, you qualify as a real estate professional.

This limitation is based on the requirement for material participation in order to claim certain deductions. Material participation means that you were materially involved in the operation of a trade or business activity on an ongoing basis.

In other words, to materially participate in a real estate investment means that you must be involved with the management of that real estate asset consistently and significantly.

If you qualify to as a real estate professional based on the material participation rules, that means that you would be able to claim unlimited rental or passive losses against both passive and active income, including your ordinary income.

However, if you do not meet the material participation requirements, that means that you can only claim passive losses against passive income, which is subject to the passive activity loss rules. Awareness of these limitations and restrictions is key to fully leverage the benefits of passive loss carryover in one’s investment strategy.

Again, this is a great topic to bring up with your CPA, to get more details and insights on your specific situation.

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Real Estate Investing And Passive Loss Carryover

Illustration of real estate investment properties

Real estate investing offers an excellent opportunity to utilize passive loss carryover. From depreciation to real estate syndications and 1031 exchanges, real estate investors can take advantage of passive loss carryover to optimize their tax benefits and investment returns.

Whether an experienced or a novice investor, it is important to understand the diverse applications of passive loss carryover in real estate investing. Let’s explore some of these opportunities in greater detail.

Related: Investing In Rental Properties Versus Passive Real Estate

Depreciation And Passive Losses

Depreciation is a powerful tool for real estate investors – both rental property investors and passive real estate syndication investors.

By deducting depreciation expenses from rental income, investors can generate passive losses that can be applied to offset future passive income. This not only reduces taxable income but also helps investors build a more resilient and tax-efficient investment portfolio.

For example, if you own a rental property, you can calculate the annual depreciation by subtracting the value of the land from the total property value and dividing the remainder by 27.5 years. This depreciation expense can then be used to offset rental income and create a passive loss. If you have other passive income sources, you can use these losses to offset that income, further reducing your taxable income.

For commercial real estate properties, the depreciation schedule is 39.5 years, but often, cost segregation helps investors to accelerate the depreciation, taking a much greater paper loss in the early years of the investment.

Note: Under the current laws, bonus depreciation is phasing out year by year. Learn more here.

Real Estate Syndications

Real estate syndications offer a unique opportunity for passive investors to enjoy the tax benefits of passive loss carryover without the need for active management. In a real estate syndication, a group of investors pool their capital to purchase a large real estate asset, with the syndication sponsor managing the property.

As a passive investor in a real estate syndication, you can benefit from passive loss carryover by utilizing losses from your investment to offset future passive income. This not only helps to reduce your taxable income but also allows you to enjoy the potential returns of real estate investing without the hassle of actively managing the property.

Related: What Every Passive Real Estate Investor Should Know About Taxes

1031 Exchanges And Passive Loss Carryover

A 1031 exchange is another avenue for real estate investors to maintain passive loss carryover benefits when reinvesting in like-kind properties. Named after Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code, a 1031 exchange allows investors to sell one investment property and use the proceeds to purchase another like-kind investment property, deferring capital gains taxes.

By utilizing a 1031 exchange, you can:

  • Transfer passive losses from the relinquished property to the replacement property

  • Offset passive income generated from the new property

  • Reduce your overall taxable income

  • Continue to build your real estate investment portfolio

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Tax Implications of Passive Loss Carryover

Investor calculating passive loss carryover

Passive loss carryover can significantly affect the tax situation for investors, especially in the field of real estate. Comprehending the tax implications of passive loss carryover, including real estate professional status, net investment income tax, and passive activity loss rules, is imperative for refining your investment strategy and maximizing tax advantages.

Let’s examine each of these tax implications and how they can impact your passive loss carryover strategy.

Real Estate Professional Status

As a real estate professional, you can claim unlimited rental losses against your ordinary income, subject to material participation requirements. This advantage allows you to offset passive losses from rental real estate activities against other income sources, such as wages or portfolio income, providing significant tax savings. By doing so, you can protect your entire interest in the property while maximizing your financial benefits.

However, it is important to note that not all real estate investors will qualify as real estate professionals. To be considered a real estate professional, you must meet specific requirements, such as dedicating at least 750 hours to a real estate trade or business, with more than half of your total working hours devoted to such a trade or business.

Net Investment Income Tax

The Net Investment Income Tax is a 3.8% tax on the income generated from investments, applicable to individuals, estates, and certain trusts with a modified adjusted gross income above a certain threshold. This income includes interest, dividends, capital gains, rental income, and passive income from businesses.

Passive loss carryover can help reduce your net investment income tax liability by offsetting passive income with passive losses from previous years. By strategically applying passive loss carryover to your investment activities, you can potentially lower your overall tax liability and enhance your investment returns.

Passive Activity Loss Rules

The passive activity loss rules limit the ability to offset passive losses against active income, emphasizing the importance of passive loss carryover for investors. These passive activity rules are designed to determine whether losses generated from rental activities can be deducted against other income, such as passive activity income, for tax purposes.

If you actively participated in a passive rental real estate activity, you may be able to deduct a certain amount of loss against your active income, subject to certain limitations and restrictions. By understanding these rules and their impact on your investment strategy, you can better leverage passive loss carryover to optimize your tax benefits.

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Real-Life Examples of Passive Loss Carryover

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To gain a practical understanding of passive loss carryover, consider these real-life examples. Suppose you are a passive investor in a real estate syndication and have experienced passive losses due to depreciation and other expenses. 

You can carry these losses forward to offset future passive income from the same syndication or other passive investments, reducing your taxable income and potentially saving on taxes.

Another example involves a 1031 exchange, where an investor sells an investment property with passive losses and uses the proceeds to purchase a like-kind property. 

The passive losses from the sold property can be carried over to the replacement property, offsetting passive income generated from the new property and further reducing taxable income.


In conclusion, passive loss carryover is a powerful tool for investors seeking to optimize their tax benefits and investment returns. By understanding the mechanisms of passive loss carryover, its application in real estate investing, and the strategies for maximizing its potential, you can effectively reduce your taxable income and enhance your investment portfolio.

Whether you are an active investor or a passive income earner, leveraging passive loss carryover can significantly impact your financial success. Don’t miss the opportunity to unlock the benefits of passive loss carryover and boost your investment strategy today.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long can passive losses be carried forward?

Passive losses can be carried forward indefinitely, being suspended until future years when passive income is earned or a property is sold at a gain.

Where do I find my passive loss carryover?

To find your passive loss carryover, check form 8582 for regular loss carryover and form 8995 for QBI carryover loss amount on line 16.

Can passive loss carryover be used to offset capital gains?

No, passive losses are generally not allowed to offset capital gains. However, they may be released in certain circumstances through a process known as “releasing passive losses.”

What is an example of a passive loss?

An example of a passive loss is when expenses incurred from a passive activity (e.g. rental property) exceed the income generated, resulting in a net loss that can be carried forward to the next tax year.

What types of activities may result in passive losses?

Passive losses can result from rental activities, limited partnerships, and other trade or business activities in which the investor does not actively participate.

Check Out Our Track Record Of Success

Curious whether we can actually do what we say we're going to do? Compare projected versus actual returns in all the deals we've exited to date.

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Next Steps

If you’re looking to invest in real estate syndications to generate passive loss carryover, or you’re looking to generate additional passive gains because you have idle passive losses, we invite you to join the Goodegg Investor Club, so we can keep you in the loop on opportunities to invest alongside us.

You can also check out our open deals page to learn more about our current or upcoming opportunities.

Learn More

If you’re not yet ready to invest but are curious about how all of this works, we invite you to dip your toe in the water with us through our free 7-day email course – Passive Real Estate Investing 101

You can also get a copy of our book – Investing For Good – or check out our Life & Money Show Podcast.

To learn more about us and our experience, be sure to download a copy of our track record, which shows the projected and actual returns we’ve achieved across all the deals we’ve exited to date.

Connect With Us

If there’s ever anything we can do to help you on your journey, feel free to email us at [email protected] or call / text us at (888) 830-1450

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