Home office deduction benefits eligible small business owners

Small business owners may qualify for a home office deduction that will help them save money on their taxes, and benefit their bottom line. Taxpayers can take this deduction if they use a portion of their home exclusively, and on a regular basis, for any of the following:

  • As the taxpayer’s main place of business.
  • As a place of business where the taxpayer meets patients, clients or customers. The taxpayer must meet these people in the normal course of business.
  • If it is a separate structure that is not attached to the taxpayer’s home. The taxpayer must use this structure in connection with their business
  • A place where the taxpayer stores inventory or samples. This place must be the sole, fixed location of their business.
  • Under certain circumstances, the structure where the taxpayer provides day care services.

Deductible expenses for business use of a home include:

  • Real estate taxes
  • Mortgage interest
  • Rent
  • Casualty losses
  • Utilities
  • Insurance
  • Depreciation
  • Repairs and Maintenance

Certain expenses are limited to the net income of the business. These are known as allocable expenses. They include things such as utilities, insurance, and depreciation.  While allocable expenses cannot create a business loss, they can be carried forward to the next year. If the taxpayer carries them forward, the expenses are subject to the same limitation rules.

There are two options for figuring and claiming the home office deduction.

Regular method
This method requires dividing the above expenses of operating the home between personal and business use. Self-employed taxpayers file Form 1040, Schedule C, and compute this deduction on Form 8829.

Simplified method
The simplified method reduces the paperwork and recordkeeping for small businesses. The simplified method has a set rate of $5 a square foot for business use of the home. The maximum deduction allowed is based on up to 300 square feet.

There are special rules for certain business owners:

  • Daycare providers complete a special worksheet, which is found in Publication 587.
  • Self-employed individuals use Form 1040, Schedule C, Line 30 to claim deduction.
  • Farmers claim the home office deduction on Schedule F, Line 32.

Tax tips for taxpayers to consider when selling their home

The IRS has some good news for taxpayers who are selling their home. When filing their taxes, they may qualify to exclude all or part of any gain from the sale from their income. Here are some things that homeowners should think about when selling a home:

Ownership and use
To claim the exclusion, the taxpayer must meet ownership and use tests. During a five-year period ending on the date of the sale, the homeowner must have owned the home and lived in it as their main home for at least two years.

Gains
Taxpayers who sell their main home and have a gain from the sale may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of that gain from their income. Taxpayers who file a joint return with their spouse may be able to exclude up to $500,000.
Homeowners excluding all the gain do not need to report the sale on their tax return.

Losses
Some taxpayers experience a loss when their main home sells for less than what they paid for it. This loss is not deductible.

Multiple homes
Taxpayers who own more than one home can only exclude the gain on the sale of their main home. They must pay taxes on the gain from selling any other home.

Reported sale
Taxpayers who don’t qualify to exclude all of the taxable gain from their income must report the gain from the sale of their home when they file their tax return. Anyone who chooses not to claim the exclusion must report the taxable gain on their tax return.  Taxpayers who receive Form 1099-S must report the sale on their tax return even if they have no taxable gain.

Mortgage debt
Generally, taxpayers must report forgiven or canceled debt as income on their tax return. This includes people who had a mortgage workout, foreclosure, or other canceled mortgage debt on their home. Taxpayers who had debt discharged after Dec. 31, 2017, can’t exclude it from income as qualified principal residence indebtedness unless a written agreement for the debt forgiveness was in place before January 1, 2018.

Possible exceptions
There are exceptions to these rules for some individuals, including persons with a disability, certain members of the military, intelligence community and Peace Corps workers.

Worksheets
Worksheets included in Publication 523 can help taxpayers figure the adjusted basis of the home sold, the gain or loss on the sale, and the excluded gain on the sale.

Here’s how small businesses can connect with the IRS over social media

Whether they’re looking for tax info during National Small Business Week or any other time of the year, business owners can connect with the IRS over social media. In fact, the IRS just launched its newest Twitter account created to offer information directly to small businesses. The Twitter handle @IRSsmallbiz joins several other IRS accounts that small business owners can visit on social media sites.

Twitter
Aside from the new @IRSsmallbiz account, taxpayers can also follow:

Instagram
Small business taxpayers can get tax tips and helpful news from the IRS on Instagram. Just a few months ago, the agency debuted it’s official Instagram account, IRSNews, which users can access on their smartphone.

YouTube
The IRS offers video tax tips on its small business playlist. Videos are available in EnglishSpanish and American Sign Language.

Facebook
The IRS uses Facebook to post news and information for taxpayers and tax return preparers. The IRS also has a Facebook page in Spanish.

LinkedIn
The IRS uses LinkedIn to share agency updates and job opportunities.

IRS2Go App
The IRS also has their own app, IRS2Go. Taxpayers can use this free mobile app to check their refund status, pay taxes, find free tax help, watch IRS YouTube videos and get IRS Tax Tips by email. Like Instagram, the IRS2Go app is available from the Google Play Store for Android devices or from the Apple App Store for Apple devices. IRS2Go is available in both English and Spanish.

Three Tips to Help You File a More Complete Form 990-Series Return

A tax-exempt organization using the calendar year as its tax year must file a Form 990-series return by May 15th, unless it has filed Form 8868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File an Exempt Organization Return.

The IRS suggests organizations consider these three tips to help ensure a complete return and reduce the chances your return is sent back or there is a need for additional information:

Issue 1: Report your organization’s correct organization type. Many organizations report the incorrect organization type in Part I of Schedule A, Public Charity Status and Public Support, which all 501(c)(3) organizations must file with Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Solution: Look at the letter the IRS sent your organization recognizing you as exempt (your “determination” letter) to verify your correct organizational type.

Issue 2: Employment taxes. Many organizations forget to file required employment tax returns, such as Forms W-2, 940, 941 or 945.

Solution: Learn about employment tax filing requirements for exempt organizations. The Employment Issues Course explains how to report employee wages, payments to independent contractors and other reportable payments.

Issue 3: Missing attachments and schedules: Organizations often forget to attach the schedules that may be required of Form 990 or Form 990-EZ filers.

Solution: Carefully review Form 990 – Part IV, Checklist of Required Schedules, or Form 990-EZ – Part V, Other Information, and Part VI, Section 501(c)(3) Organizations Only, to ensure that your organization has completed and attached all required schedules.

The Form 990 Overview Course discusses which forms to file, when they are due, public disclosure of your return and tips to help prepare your Form 990-series return.

Online tool lets taxpayers check the status of their refund

Filed your taxes on time but haven’t received your refund? Here’s how you can check on the status of that refund.

The easiest way to check on a tax refund is to use Where’s My Refund?. This tool is available on IRS.gov and through the IRS2Go app. The fastest way to get that tax refund is to use IRS e-File and direct deposit.

Taxpayers can use Where’s My Refund? to start checking on the status of their tax return within 24 hours after the IRS receives an e-filed return. For a paper return, it’s four weeks after the taxpayer mailed it.

The tool has a tracker that displays progress through three phases:
(1) Return Received
(2) Refund Approved
(3) Refund Sent

All a taxpayer needs to use “Where’s My Refund?” is their Social Security number, tax filing status and the exact amount of the refund claimed on their tax return.

“Where’s My Refund?” is updated no more than once every 24 hours, usually overnight, so there’s no need to check the status more often.

Taxpayers should only call the IRS tax help hotline on the status of their tax refund if :

  • It has been 21 days or more since the tax return was e-filed
  • It has been six weeks or more since the return was mailed
  • When “Where’s My Refund?” tells the taxpayer to contact the IRS