The Home Office Deduction

If you use a part of your home for business, perhaps to perform paperwork, to store records, inventory, or samples, or even to meet customers, you may be able to claim a tax deduction for some of your expenses of maintaining the home.

Now, you may have heard that the home office deduction is either one of the greatest money-savers available to American small business, or that it is major red flag that will make you audit bait for the IRS.

As a general rule, you should never shy away from taking a deduction you are legally entitled to. The same holds true when it comes to the home office deduction. Nevertheless, we recommend that you keep meticulous records of all your expenses and be prepared to back them up.

There are also those who have dangerous misconceptions about the way the deduction works. Perhaps you have heard about folks who furnish their entire home in rare antiques and write them off as a "business expense." Or people who think the deduction entitles them to pass on the cost of a new stove, billiard table, or Jacuzzi to the government.

Clearing through misconceptions, and providing you with a special calculator to estimate your potential home office tax deduction, is what this discussion is all about; however, there are also a number of non-tax aspects you may want to consider.

Not one deduction, but many. In reality, when we speak of the home office deduction, we're really talking about a series of smaller deductions. These deductions - which may include such items as a portion of utility bills, mortgage interest, repairs, and depreciation - are totaled up to get an overall deduction which is reported on IRS Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home. In addition, if you qualify for the home office deduction, you also qualify for some special, more liberal rules for deducting auto expenses. The common denominator among these deductions is that the IRS has devised a single test to determine whether you qualify for all of them.

Some deductions are available even if you don't qualify. A commonly held misconception is that you need to qualify for the deduction in order to claim any expenses associated with a home or a home-based business. This is simply not true.

For example, home mortgage interest and real estate taxes would be allowed as an itemized deduction on Schedule A of your tax return in any case, even if you can't take a home office deduction. Office supplies, postage, and the cost of bringing a second telephone line into your home for business use may also be deductible. Moreover, you may be able to depreciate the cost of computers and office furniture you buy to use at home, even if you're not allowed to deduct the cost of the office itself.

Business Tools

Among the Business Tools are Form 1040, Form 8829 and Schedule A. They are in Adobe Acrobat .pdf format, and you will need Acrobat Reader 4.0 to view the files and print them. A free version of Acrobat 4.0 is available in the Business Tools area as well.

Having said that, we're ready to discuss the details of the home office deduction and to help you calculate your deduction amount.