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Why Depreciation is a Multifamily Investor’s Best Friend for Tax Reduction 

In the competitive world of multifamily real estate investing, savvy investors continually seek strategies to maximize returns and minimize expenses. One of the most effective but underutilized tools for achieving this is depreciation. Depreciation serves as a powerful mechanism for tax reduction, directly impacting the profitability of investment properties. At SubtoFund, we emphasize the importance of leveraging every available benefit, including depreciation, to optimize your investments in the Arizona multifamily market. This blog explores why depreciation is an indispensable ally for multifamily investors looking to enhance their financial outcomes. 

Understanding Depreciation in Real Estate 

Depreciation is an accounting method that allows investors to deduct the costs of buying and improving a property over its useful life. For taxation purposes, it acknowledges that the property wears out, deteriorates, or becomes obsolete over time, thereby losing value. This is not just a theoretical loss; it reflects real-world wear and tear and the ongoing need for investment in maintenance and upgrades. 

The Benefits of Depreciation for Multifamily Investors 

  1. Tax Deductions: Depreciation is a non-cash deduction that does not impact your immediate cash flow. This means it allows you to report a lower income on your taxes while the actual cash generated by the property remains the same. It effectively lowers your taxable income, thus reducing your tax liability each year. 
  1. Enhanced Cash Flow: By reducing the amount of tax paid, depreciation directly increases the post-tax cash flow available to investors. This additional cash can be reinvested into the property or other ventures, accelerating wealth accumulation. 
  1. Cost Recovery: Through depreciation, investors can recover the cost of an income-producing property over time. It serves as a way to recoup part of your investment each year, making it a fundamental aspect of your overall investment strategy. 

How Depreciation Works in Multifamily Real Estate 

Depreciation for residential rental property, including multifamily housing, is typically calculated over a 27.5-year period using the straight-line method. This approach evenly spreads the depreciatable value of the property—excluding land, which does not depreciate—over its useful life. 

  • Initial Investment and Improvement Costs: When you purchase a multifamily property, you can depreciate the cost of the buildings and any significant improvements. These improvements must extend the life of the property, increase its value, or adapt it to a new use. 
  • Annual Depreciation Deduction: Each year, a portion of the property’s value is deducted from your taxable income. For instance, if a building is valued at $550,000 (excluding the land), the annual depreciation would be $20,000 ($550,000 divided by 27.5 years). 

Strategic Uses of Depreciation 

Investors can maximize the benefits of depreciation through a few strategic approaches: 

  • Cost Segregation Studies: This advanced tax strategy involves hiring a specialist to identify and reclassify personal property assets to shorten the depreciation time for taxation purposes, increasing your tax deductions in the early years of property ownership. 
  • Immediate Expensing: Certain small items or minor improvements can sometimes be expensed in the year they are made, rather than depreciated over a longer period, offering immediate tax relief. 

FAQs about Depreciation for Multifamily Investors 

Q: Is all property eligible for depreciation? A: Only income-producing property is eligible for depreciation. Personal residences or properties held for personal use are not. 

Q: Can depreciation create a taxable event upon sale? A: Yes, when a property is sold, the IRS may require you to pay a depreciation recapture tax on any gain realized that is attributable to the depreciation deductions you’ve taken. This is taxed as ordinary income. 

Q: How often can I adjust the basis for depreciation? A: The basis of a property for depreciation purposes is typically adjusted whenever you make significant capital improvements or if you claim a deduction for casualty loss. 

Key Takeaways 

  • Significant Tax Advantages: Depreciation reduces taxable income, providing substantial tax savings over the life of an investment. 
  • Improved Cash Flow: The tax savings from depreciation can significantly improve the cash flow from your multifamily investments, providing more liquidity for operations and further investments. 
  • Strategic Financial Planning: Understanding and applying depreciation strategies can significantly enhance the profitability and financial management of multifamily properties. 


For multifamily investors, depreciation is not just a method of accounting but a strategic tool essential for tax planning and financial efficiency. It allows investors to maintain higher operational cash flows, reduce tax liabilities, and better plan for long-term investments. At SubtoFund, we equip our clients with the knowledge and strategies to leverage depreciation effectively, ensuring that every investment in the Arizona multifamily market is as profitable as possible.