Vacation rental bookkeeping tips

How to keep track of rental income and expenses


When you manage your own vacation rental, the amount of paperwork can seem endless.

Digging through those folders packed with receipts, contracts, spreadsheets, and records can feel daunting–especially when tax time nears.

Tax season or not, it’s never too late to evaluate your processes for tracking your Airbnb and Vrbo business expenses and income, plus decide on ways to streamline and improve them for next year. If you’re drowning in paperwork—rest assured it can get easier. Here are some simple and quick-to-implement solutions to help you keep your books up to date without the hassle.

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1. Put bookkeeping on your calendar

Keeping track of your expenses doesn’t have to be complex. Consider spending 30 minutes or so on bookkeeping every month. Or, break the work into even smaller pieces by setting aside dedicated time each day or week to update your records. Find what works for you and set up your own routine.

2. Use a dedicated credit card

Stick to the same credit card for all of your business expenses, then try to pay off the balance each month. This works even if you have multiple vacation rental properties. When you review your bookkeeping, you simply have to assign the purchases to the right property and let your spreadsheet calculate your totals.

3. Access your accounting from anywhere

If you’re not already using a cloud-based accounting software system—such as Quickbooks Online, Mint, or Xero—consider making the move. Since the software is web-based, you can access it and record your expenses from anywhere. Link your credit card and bank account so that expenses feed right into your account, where they will be tracked and categorized automatically. Then, you’ll be able to create expense reports with just a click.

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4. Jot down notes for every purchase

When possible, write relevant notes on the backs of your receipts so that you know exactly which expense categories they relate to. Meals and entertainment, travel, vehicle, and home office expenses are among the main choices. For instance, if you have a receipt from a business meal, write down who was present and the purpose of the meeting. This kind of paper trail is important, as it will help support your case in the event of a tax audit (credit card statements are not sufficient).

5. Digitize your receipts

Buried under an unwieldy stack of receipts and bills? There are numerous cloud-based apps to store your paperwork as digital files instead, such as HubDoc. You can simply take photos of any paperwork with your smartphone and even forward email invoices right from your inbox. If you’re working with an accountant or a bookkeeper, this eases their workload, as they can access your bills and receipts without having to pick up a shoebox from your office.

6. Set up recurring purchases or subscriptions

After organizing your short-term rental expenses, you may start to see a spending pattern. You can then plan out your spending with recurring payments on sites like Amazon. If you set up purchases at the beginning of each month—such as bulk orders of paper towels and laundry detergent—you’ll know roughly how much you’re going to spend each month before the year even starts.

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7. Don’t forget about contractors and vendors

If you pay a contractor to do work on your vacation rental—and the cost is more than $600—you’ll owe them a 1099 at the end of the year. This is easily managed in programs like Quickbooks Online. Not only can you track how much you paid each contractor, but you can also prepare and file your 1099s from within the software.

8. Hire a good accountant

Sure, you can go the DIY route and handle all your own bookkeeping. But hiring a professional accountant—especially one who is familiar with the laws related to the vacation rental industry and related expenses—will save you time and money. However, you’ll still need to keep good records of your expenses to make the best use of their time.

9. Work with a vacation rental property manager to streamline finances

As a full-service vacation rental management company, Vacasa automatically tracks your annual earnings, supplies tax forms and owner statements, and provides end-of-year tax and expense reporting—all available in a simple online account.

Staying on top of your vacation rental expenses—then allocating and organizing them correctly—can help keep your business running like a well-oiled machine. But the pile of receipts may soon become daunting, so it’s important to use tips like these to streamline your bookkeeping (and save your sanity).

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Vacation rental bookkeeping FAQ

While both bookkeeping and accounting involve handling financial data, they serve separate functions.

  • Bookkeeping relates to the gathering and reporting of financial transactions—such as business income and expenses—into a database. Bookkeeping is seen as a more administrative function.
  • Accounting involves summarizing, interpreting, and analyzing all the financial data to better inform forecasting and business decisions. Bookkeeping is just one part of the accounting process.

Yes, you can write off some vacation home expenses to reduce your taxes. The general rule of thumb is that expenses must be:

  • Ordinary and necessary
  • Directly related to your rental activity
  • Reasonable in amount
  • Incurred during the tax year

Possible deductible vacation home expenses include cleaning fees, HOA fees, maintenance and repairs, utilities, and marketing services. Want to maximize your tax savings? Consider these 10 tax deductible vacation rental expenses.

When you file your taxes, you’ll either use a Schedule E or Schedule C. Choose the Schedule E if your vacation rental property is primarily used for supplemental income rather than a primary business. Or, use Schedule C if you provide significant enough services for your guests—such as cooking, cleaning, or leading tours—that you could be considered a business or self-employed property manager.

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California licenses
Vacasa Seasonals Inc.
California DRE #02160171

Vacation Palm Springs Real Estate, Inc.
California DRE #01523013

Vacasa offers property management and other real estate services directly through Vacasa LLC and through Vacasa LLC's licensed subsidiaries. Click here for more information about Vacasa's licensed real estate brokerage/property manager in your state. Vacasa’s licensed real estate brokerages/property managers include: Vacasa Alabama LLC; Vacasa Arizona LLC; Vacasa of Arkansas LLC; Vacasa Colorado LLC (Micah Victory); Vacasa Delaware LLC, 302-541-8999; Vacasa Florida LLC; Vacasa Illinois LLC 481.014072, Micah Victory Managing Broker Lic# 471.021837; Vacasa Louisiana LLC, Dana MacCord, Principal Broker, ph 504.252.0155 (Licensed in LA); Vacasa Michigan LLC, 602-330-9934; Vacasa Missouri LLC, Vicki Lyn Brown, Designated Broker; Vacasa Nevada LLC; Vacasa New Hampshire LLC,45 NH-25, Meredith, NH 03253, Susan Scanlon, Broker of Record; Vacasa Minnesota, Broker: Micah Victory, license #40877637; Vacasa New Mexico LLC, 503-345-9399; Vacasa New York LLC, 888-433-0068, Susan Scanlon, Real Estate Broker; Vacasa North Carolina LLC; Vacasa Oregon LLC; Vacasa Pennsylvania LLC; Vacation Palm Springs Real Estate, Inc., California DRE #01523013, Mark Graham, California DRE #00700720; Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Texas, Debra Brock, Designated Broker); Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Washington, Robert Brush, Designated Broker); Vacasa Seasonals Inc., California DRE #02160171, Lisa Renee Stevens, California DRE #01485234; Vacasa South Carolina LLC; Vacasa South Dakota LLC; Vacasa Tennessee LLC; Vacasa Vacation Rentals of Hawaii LLC, 69-201 Waikoloa Beach Dr. Ste. #2F17, Waikoloa, HI 96738; Vacasa Vacation Rentals of Montana LLC, Terah M. Young, Licensed Property Manager; Vacasa Virginia LLC; Vacasa Wisconsin LLC; Vacasa Wyoming LLC. In Canada, this advertisement is provided by Vacasa Canada ULC, CPBC lic. number 75826, 172 Asher Rd. V1X 3H6 Kelowna, BC.