Deducting business use of home expenses can save you a lot of money on your taxes. But it’s not always easy to identify which expenses are eligible for deduction. This post explains what business use of home expenses are and how to deduct them on your tax return.
In simple terms, you incur business use of home expenses when running your own business and using your home for business purposes.
Important note: If you are an employee (you receive a paycheck and your employer issues you a W2) you may not claim a home-office deduction even if you work from home 100% of the time. This deduction was previously allowed for employees, but the rules changed in 2017.
If you do operate your own business, then the expenses can include regularly occurring costs such as real estate taxes, rent, utilities, interest on your mortgage, and homeowners insurance. In addition, more infrequent costs such as maintenance and upkeep of your home and property may also be considered a business expense.
Business use of home expenses are only deductible if they are deemed to be ordinary and necessary, meaning they are common and appropriate for the trade you’re in. They are also limited by the amount you use your house for business, both in square footage and time.
Ordinary and necessary expenses are expenses that are appropriate for your trade. For example, if you are a chef, the kitchen and kitchen utilities are appropriate. If you are a writer, office and computer expenses may be appropriate.
Business use of home expenses must meet these criteria to be deductible. In most cases, ordinary and necessary expenses will be easily identifiable. However, there may be some instances where it’s not as clear-cut. In these cases, you may need to dig a little more to determine if the expense is eligible for deduction.
There are a few things to keep in mind when identifying ordinary and necessary expenses. First of all, the expense must have a legitimate business purpose. It can’t be personal or something that is only used only for leisure activities. So a writer making lunch in the kitchen probably does not make kitchen expenses deductible.
Secondly, the expense must be helpful and appropriate for your business. Kitchen expenses are not “useful” in the writing “trade,” so the writer may not deduct them. They are useful to the chef’s “cooking” trade, so the chef may deduct them.
Finally, you may not deduct personal expenses as business expenses. This may seem obvious, but in a home setting where personal and business can mix fluidly, separating the two requires some discipline.
Here is an overview of the types of expenses that count as business use of home expenses and that you may be able to deduct.
These expenses benefit only the area of the home that you use for business. These expenses might include furniture, painting, repairs, or upkeep of your home office. These expenses are fully deductible, but the area must be dedicated exclusively to your business.
These expenses include anything spent on running the entire home. Examples of indirect expenses include insurance, utilities, and general repairs to the home.
These expenses are deductible but only based on the percentage of the home you use for business purposes. So if you dedicate 10% of your home to your business, you can deduct 10% of these indirect expenses.
Basic local telephone service for the first telephone line to your home is not deductible, even if you use it for business.
However, any other business-related long-distance or second-line charges are deductible.
The IRS considers a home office “nonresidential real property.” Therefore you may depreciate the cost of that property over 39 years. To calculate the basis for the depreciation expense, you take the smaller of:
The fair market value of the home minus the fair market value of the land on the day you first used the home for business.
The home’s cost plus permanent improvements minus any casualty losses minus the cost of land on the day you first used the home for business.
Permanent improvements before using the home for business become a part of the basis for depreciation. So you will realize this as a depreciation expense over 39 years.
Once you start using the home for business, you deduct the cost of improvements separately.
There is not an easy rule for determining in all circumstances whether a business can deduct an expense in one year or whether you must depreciate it over 39 years; we can help you figure this out on a case-by-case basis.
The key to calculating the deduction is defining the amount of the home you use for business. The “business percentage” is the square footage of the part of the home you use for business divided by the house’s total square footage. So if you have a 3000 square-foot house and a 300 square-foot office space dedicated to business, then your business percentage is 300/3000 = 10%.
You multiply this percentage times your indirect expenses and add this to your direct expenses to calculate your deduction.
You also have to consider time: if you only use the home for business for a part of the year, you only deduct expenses incurred during that part of the year. So, for example, if you only use your home for business in the winter, you would not deduct expenses you incur in the summer.
A common use of the home for business is using the home as a daycare facility. In this case, you calculate the business percentage by using the portion of the home regularly used for the daycare, divide it by the total square footage of the home, and multiply that by the percentage of time you use the home as a daycare facility.
In many cases, the basement and garage may be included in the total square footage of a daycare provider’s home when calculating the business use percentage. In addition to regularly used rooms, the business use area can include:
You should also keep a log of the time you spend conducting your daycare business, including dates and hours each person was in your care. Also include additional time spent organizing, preparing meals, and cleaning up.
If all of this sounds daunting, there is also a simplified option. You may calculate a standard home-office deduction of $5 per square foot you use for business, up to 300 square feet ($1,500).
If you opt for this simpler method, you will deduct any allowable homeowner expenses (such as state taxes and mortgage interest) on your personal return. Using the standard deduction also means you may not deduct a depreciation expense. Depending on your situation and expenses, the standard deduction may or may not make sense for you.
If you use your home for business, deducting relevant expenses can have a significant impact on your taxes. Doing so does require record-keeping and calculation, but the tax savings can be well worth the effort.
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Jeff Coyle, CPA, Partner of Rosenberg Chesnov, has been with the firm since 2015. He joined the firm after 20 years of business and accounting experience where he learned the value of accurate reporting, using financial information as a basis for good business decisions and the importance of accounting for management.
He is a diligent financial professional, able to manage the details and turn them into relevant business leading information. He has a strong financial background in construction, technology, consulting services and risk management. He also knows what it takes to create organizations having built teams, grown companies and designed processes for financial analysis and reporting.
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Jeff also has a long history of helping individuals manage their taxes and plan their finances including:
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Prior to joining the firm in 2015, Jeff was in the private sector where he held senior financial and management positions including Controller and Chief Financial Officer. He has experience across industries, including construction, technology and professional services which gives him a deep understanding of business.
Jeff graduated from Montclair State University, he is a CPA and member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants and New Jersey State Society of Public Accountants.
Jody H. Chesnov, CPA, Managing Partner of Rosenberg Chesnov, has been with the firm since 2004. After a career of public accounting and general management, Jody knows the value of good financials. Clarity, decision making, and strategy all start with the facts – Jody has been revealing the facts and turning them into good business results for more than three decades.
He takes a pragmatic approach to accounting, finance and business. His work has supported many companies on their path to growth, including helping them find investors, manage scaling and overcome hurdles. His experience and passion for business reach beyond accounting and he helps businesses focus on what the numbers mean organizationally, operationally and financially.
He has a particular expertise in early-stage growth companies. His strengths lie in cutting through the noise to come up with useful, out of the box, solutions that support clients in building their businesses and realizing their larger visions.
Prior to joining the firm in 2004, Jody was in the private sector where he held senior financial and management positions including General Manager, Chief Financial Officer and Controller. He has experience across industries, which gives him a deep understanding of business.
Jody graduated with a BBA in Accounting from Baruch College, he is a CPA and member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants.
In addition to delivering above and beyond accounting results, Jody is a member of the NYSCPA’s Emerging Tech Entrepreneurial Committee (ETEC), Private Equity and Venture Capital Committee and Family Office Committee.
He is an angel investor through the Westchester Angels, and has served as an advisor for many startup companies and as a mentor through the Founders Institute.
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