The tax break has been expanded, but make sure you know the rules.
The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 included a modification of the IRS's definition of "principal place of business" that will permit a larger number of taxpayers to qualify for the home-office deduction. For tax years beginning after 1998, the deduction will be available for home offices that are used for administrative or management activities related to the taxpayer's business (for example, billing, maintaining records, ordering supplies, scheduling appointments, creating reports).
Under the amended rules, a taxpayer is allowed to deduct expenses of a home office that is used for business purposes only if the space is used "exclusively" on a "regular basis" as:
The principal place of business carried on by the taxpayer,
The exclusive-use test will be satisfied if a specific portion of the taxpayer's home is used solely for business purposes or inventory storage. The regular-basis test is satisfied if the space is used on a continuing basis for business purposes (that is, incidental business use will not qualify.)
In determining the principal place of business (first provision under the definition of principal place of business, above), the IRS considers two factors: Does the taxpayer spend more business-related time in the home office than anywhere else? Are the most significant revenue-generating activities performed in the home office? Both of these factors must be considered when determining the principal place of business.
Direct Business Expenses relate only to the taxpayer's business activity (for example, supplies, salaries). Expenditures for additional phone lines, long-distance calls, and optional phone services for the business may be deductible as direct business expenses. However, basic local telephone service charges (that is, monthly access charges) for the first phone line in the residence generally do not qualify for the deduction.
Permissible Expenses are expenditures that could be included as itemized deductions in the individual's tax return (for example, mortgage interest, real estate taxes, and casualty losses).
Previously Non-deductible Expenses would not be deductible if not for the home office deduction (for example, insurance, utilities, and depreciation).
Sale of Residence
As with many tax laws there are exceptions to this rule. If you'd like a clearer picture of the size of the exclusion you qualify for, please call us.
An individual is not entitled to deduct any expenses of using his/her home for business purposes unless the space is used exclusively on a regular basis as the "principal place of business." The IRS applies a 2-part test to determine if the home office is the principal place of business.
Do you spend more business-related time in your home office than anywhere else?
Are the most significant revenue-generating activities performed in your home office?
If the answer to either of these questions is no, the home office will not be considered the principal place of business, and the deduction will not be available.
Business use of the home by an employee must also be for the convenience of the employer. These rules make it very difficult for an employee to qualify for the deduction.
If these three tests are met, the deduction is limited to the gross income from the business activity. Furthermore, a deduction for home-office expenses cannot create or increase a net loss from the business. Any disallowed deduction may be carried over to future years.
Taxpayers taking a deduction for business use of their home must complete Form 8829. Some tax experts believe that taking a deduction for home-office expenses, whether clearly allowable or not, increases the likelihood of an IRS audit.
These are some thoughts to consider.
If you have a home office or are considering one, please call us. We'll be happy help you take advantage of these deductions.