12 Tough Questions (and Answers) About Home Office Deductions
Tax expert and author Julian Block demystifies the home office tax deduction.
Question: Can I put a home office anywhere?
Julian Block: For your office to meet IRS criteria, you must use the space exclusively and on a regular basis for your business, and it must be your primary place of business. You must also be self-employed; employees aren’t eligible.
12 Tough Questions (and Answers) About Home Office DeductionsYour Backyard Office
Question: My home office is a separate structure. How much is deductible?
J.B.: All of it, as long as the separate structure is easy for the IRS to identify as a qualifying home office, and as long as you use it regularly and exclusively for business. If you use Form 8829 to take actual expenses, you can depreciate the cost of the separate structure, not counting the value of the land.
Image: Decorated Shed
12 Tough Questions (and Answers) About Home Office DeductionsTucked Away in a Nook
Question: I converted a big closet to an office space. Is that deductible?
J.B.: A partition (like the bi-folde doors here) or other physical separation is helpful — but not required by the IRS — in determining if your space is a home office.
12 Tough Questions (and Answers) About Home Office DeductionsMe and My Laptop
Question: I run my business on a laptop, which I use anywhere. How do I claim a deduction?
J.B.: Sorry, no home office deduction, but you may depreciate your laptop (and other business-related equipment) on Schedule C. Or, claim “first-year expensing,” which may allow you to write off the entire cost of your equipment at once.
12 Tough Questions (and Answers) About Home Office DeductionsPower Up Your Deduction
Question: What portion of my home utility bills is deductible?
J.B.: Deduct utility costs as a percentage of your total utility bill if you use Form 8829. Example: If your office square footage equals 10% of the total square footage of your home, you can deduct 10% of your total utility bills. If you use the simplified home office deduction ($5/sq. ft. up to 300 sq. ft. or $1,500), you can’t also deduct your home office utility costs.
12 Tough Questions (and Answers) About Home Office DeductionsInventory Storage
Question: If I conduct business mainly outside my home, can I still deduct the space in my garage where I store inventory?
J.B.: The storage space you claim for a deduction must be separately identifiable and suitable for storage. That means it doesn’t have to be physically connected to your principal place of business, but it must be used exclusively for business.
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12 Tough Questions (and Answers) About Home Office DeductionsAloha! I’m Taking my Biz to the Beach
Question: I’ll be out of town for a while; can I claim any part of the home office deduction if I work while I’m away?
J.B.: If your home place of business meets the regular requirements for exclusive, regular use, then the deduction remains available when you work while traveling, or do some tasks from a fixed location other than your home.
12 Tough Questions (and Answers) About Home Office DeductionsOpening the Door to Deductions
Question: I’m remodeling to include a separate entrance for my business. Is the remodeling work deductible?
J.B.: It’s not a deductible expense; rather, it’s depreciable. The cost of building a separate entrance gets added to the cost basis of your home. For a look at how depreciation is figured, check IRS Publication 946. (Note: Depreciation isn’t relevant if you take the simplified home office deduction.)
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12 Tough Questions (and Answers) About Home Office DeductionsThe Kids are All Right
Question: I use a lot of living space for my home-based day care business, but at night and on weekends, the day care is closed. What’s deductible?
J.B.: The rule to qualify for the home office deduction is “regular and exclusive use” of space. But a day care facility is an exception. It must be used regularly, but not exclusively. You must meet all governing licensing requirements to qualify as a day care.
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12 Tough Questions (and Answers) About Home Office DeductionsTwo Heads More Deductible than One?
Question: I work in the same home office space as my husband, but we have separate businesses. Can we both take the home office deduction?
J.B.: Each business would have to file its own Schedule C, but only one of you can take the deduction for the home office space.
12 Tough Questions (and Answers) About Home Office DeductionsBeating the Bushes for Deductions
Question: Is a portion of the maintenance that contributes to the upkeep of my home deductible for my home-based business?
J.B.: Probably not, unless the maintenance is connected to your work. If you have a landscaping design business, then maintenance may be essential to your livelihood, and a portion might be deductible. Consult your tax adviser.
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