Home sweet home: Do you qualify for office deductions?

If you’re a business owner working from home or an entrepreneur with a home-based side gig, you may qualify for valuable home office deductions.

But not everyone who works from home gets the tax break. Employees who work remotely can’t deduct home office expenses under current federal tax law.

To qualify for a deduction, you must use at least part of your home regularly and exclusively as either:

  • Your principal place of business, or
  • A place to meet with customers, clients or patients in the normal course of business.

In addition, you may be able to claim deductions for maintaining a separate structure — such as a garage — where you store products or tools used solely for business purposes.

Notably, “regular and exclusive” use means you must consistently use a specific identifiable area in your home for business. However, incidental or occasional personal use won’t necessarily disqualify you.

Rules for employees

What if you work remotely from home as an employee for an organization? Previously, people who itemized deductions could claim home office deductions as a miscellaneous expense, if the arrangement was for their employer’s convenience.

But the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspended miscellaneous expense deductions for 2018 through 2025. So, employees currently get no tax benefit if they work from home. On the other hand, self-employed individuals still may qualify if they meet the tax law requirements.

Direct and indirect expenses

If you qualify, you can write off the full amount of your direct expenses and a proportionate amount of your indirect expenses based on the percentage of business use of your home.

Indirect expenses include:

  • Mortgage interest,
  • Property taxes,
  • Utilities (electric, gas and water),
  • Insurance,
  • Exterior repairs, maintenance, and
  • Depreciation or rent under IRS tables.

Important: If you itemize deductions, mortgage interest and property taxes may already be deductible. If you claim a portion of these expenses as home office expenses, the remainder is deductible on your personal return. But you can’t deduct the same amount twice as a personal deduction and again as a home office expense.

Calculating your deduction

Typically, the percentage of business use is determined by the square footage of your home office. For instance, if you have a 3,000 square-foot home and use a room with 300 square feet as your office, the applicable percentage is 10%. Alternatively, you may use any other reasonable method for determining this percentage, such as a percentage based on the number of comparably sized rooms in the home.

The simplified method

Keeping track of indirect expenses is time-consuming. Some taxpayers prefer to take advantage of a simplified method of deducting home office expenses. Instead of deducting actual expenses, you can claim a deduction equal to $5 per square foot for the area used as an office, up to a maximum of $1,500 for the year. Although this method takes less time than tracking actual expenses, it generally results in a significantly lower deduction.

When you sell

Keep in mind that if you claim home office deductions, you may be in for a tax surprise when you sell your home.

If you eventually sell your principal residence, you may qualify for a tax exclusion of up to $250,000 of gain for single filers ($500,000 for married couples who file jointly). But you must recapture the depreciation attributable to a home office for the period after May 6, 1997.

Please contact us if you have any questions. We are here to help you with strategic tax planning.

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