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The IRS definition of "home equity loan" differs from that the bank uses. For taxes, any loan secured by the primary or one secondary residence house and recorded as such by the county qualifies as home equity loan for that portion not used for home acquisition debt on that house. So cash-out not used for home improvement would qualify as the home equity loan regardless of whether you refinance the existing mortgage or borrow only $30,000.

Back to the original question of roof expensing vs. capitalization. The IRS has consistently taken the position that a new roof is a capital expense(recoverable for owner rental or business use by depreciation). The tax courts have equally consistently held that a simple roof replacement of similar construction would be maintenance, expenseable in current year by owner of a rental. Of course, this treatment is useless if roof is repaired for a owner-occupied unit. So, if you can wait until the rental is ready for occupency before you replace the roof, and your income is such that you can use the immediate expense, and are willing to spend a day in the small claims division of tax court pro se, you might save a few hundred dollars net gain in taxes by immediate expensing of the roof as maintenance. Probably too complicated for a $3000 roof.
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