Whether you buy a recreational vehicle to use for an occasional trip to the lake or live in it for months at a time, as long as it meets the Internal Revenue Service's standards, you can claim your RV as a second home. This can provide you with a tax break, as federal tax law allows you to deduct mortgage interest on both your main home and a second home.
You cannot write off the purchase of an RV as a second home if it was purchased with the proceeds from IRA withdrawals or cash. You can, however, write off mortgage interest if you secured a loan for the RV's purchase either with the RV itself or your primary residence.
Claiming a Second Home
Not all RVs meet the IRS definition of a home. Your RV must have sleeping, cooking and toilet facilities. You don't actually have to live in your RV or even use it during the year for it to qualify as your second home, provided you don't rent it to someone else.
If you rent your RV out, you must use it for at least 14 days during the year, or the IRS will consider it rental property rather than a second home. This will also help ensure that you can claim RV interest on taxes.
Mortgage Interest Deductions
You don't get a tax deduction for buying an RV as a second home, any more than you would get a tax deduction for buying your main home. The primary tax deduction is the mortgage interest deduction. To qualify for a write-off, the loan must be secured either by your RV or by your main home.
If you withdraw money from your individual retirement arrangement and pay cash for your RV, you have no mortgage interest to deduct. If you take out a personal loan that is not secured by either the RV or your main home, you can't take the mortgage interest deduction. You can deduct the interest if you take out a second mortgage on your main home and use the money to buy the RV.
Other Tax Deductions
Because an RV is not real estate, you don't get to take the real estate tax deduction, but you are eligible for a few other deductions. For example, you have the option of deducting either your state income taxes or your state and local sales taxes. You can take the sales tax deduction as part of an RV tax deduction regardless of whether you pay your sales taxes in cash from your savings, finance the purchase or withdraw money from your IRA to pay for it. If your state charges personal property tax on your RV annually, you can write it off regardless of how you pay the tax.
The IRA Penalty Exception
Withdrawing money early from your IRA usually results in a tax penalty equal to 10 percent of the unqualified distribution. The IRS waives the early distribution penalty on up to $10,000 if you use that money to buy a first home. The penalty isn't waived if you use the money to buy a second home. Unlike early withdrawal penalties on a certificate of deposit, early distribution penalties on an IRA are not tax deductible.
Filing Your Taxes
You can use IRS Form 5329 to report any early withdrawals from your IRA that are eligible for taxation. If your withdrawal occurs within the eligible time frame and is not early, you can report this transaction on line 4b of the new, more streamlined IRS Form 1040.
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.