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I am in the process of purchasing a townhome and will be living with two other people, a brother & friend (neither will be on the title). Is the rent they pay me considered income? If so, what is the best way to arrange their payments to minimize my income taxes? I don't want to do anything illegal, but obviously I don't want to pay more than I have to! Here are a couple ideas I've been tossing around:

- My parents will be paying my brother's share of the rent and are willing to give me a lump sum when I close on the house. Could that be considered a gift instead of rent? My brother will not have a lease, but my friend will.

- Could I arrange for my roommates to pay 100% of the utilities (in exchange for lower rent), reducing the amount of money that I receive? Or are they not allowed to pay more than their 1/3 share?

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