Your Guide to Claiming a Legit Home Office Tax Deduction

I’d bet that on just about every city block or long country road, someone is operating a business from their residence. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, about 50 percent of businesses are home-based, with a larger percentage (60 percent) working as solopreneurs with no employees.

Having a home-based business is one of the easiest and least risky ways to become an entrepreneur, test your business ideas, and increase your income. No matter if you run a business full-time or as a side gig, claiming the home office deduction can significantly reduce your taxes.

No matter if you run a business full-time or as a side gig, claiming the home office deduction can significantly reduce your taxes.

I received an email from John, who says, “My New Year's resolution is to earn more money working during my off-hours and on weekends. Since the work will likely entail making deliveries for different mobile apps, I’m not sure if it qualifies me for the home office tax deduction. Can you explain more about it?”

Thanks for your great question, John! In this post, I’ll give an overview of the home office deduction. You’ll learn who qualifies, which expenses are deductible, and how to legitimately claim this money-saving tax break no matter what type of business you have.

Who can claim the home office tax deduction

If you work for yourself in any type of trade or business, either full- or part-time, and your primary office location is your home, you have a home business. The designation applies no matter whether you sell goods and services, are a freelancer, consultant, designer, inventor, Uber driver, or dog-walker.

If you work for yourself in any type of trade or business, either full- or part-time, and your primary office location is your home, you have a home business. 

You can have a home-based business even if you’re like John and mostly earn income away from home. This is common for many trades and solopreneurs, such as musicians, sales reps, and those working in the gig economy. If you’re self-employed and do administrative work like scheduling, invoicing, communication, and recordkeeping at home, you have a home business.

Note that employees who work from home can’t claim a home office deduction. W-2 workers used to be allowed to include certain expenses if they itemized deductions. But tax reform took away that benefit starting with the 2018 tax year.

The home office deduction is available for any self-employed person no matter whether you own or rent your home, with the following two requirements:

  1. Your home office space is used regularly and exclusively for business
  2. Your home office is the principal place used for business

You must regularly use part of your home exclusively for conducting business. For example, if you use a guest room in your house or a nook in your studio apartment to run your business, you can take a home office deduction for the space.

You don’t need walls to separate your office, but it should be a distinct area within your home. The only exception to this “exclusive use” rule is when you use part of your home for business storage or as a daycare. In these situations, you can consider the entire space an office for tax purposes.

Additionally, your home must be the primary place you conduct business, even if it’s just the administrative work you do. For example, if you meet with clients or do work for customers away from home, you can still consider the area of your home used exclusively for business as your home office.

Your home doesn’t have to be the only place you work to qualify for the deduction. You might also work at a coffee shop or a co-working space from time to time.

You could also consider a separate structure at your home, such as a garage or studio, your home office if you use it regularly for business. Also, note that your home doesn’t have to be the only place you work to qualify for the deduction. You might also work at a coffee shop or a co-working space from time to time.

RELATED: How to Cut Taxes When You Work From Home

Expenses that are eligible for the home office tax deduction

If you run a business from home, two types of expenses are eligible for the home office deduction: direct expenses and indirect expenses.

Direct expenses are the costs to set up and maintain your office. For instance, if you work in a spare bedroom, you might decide to install carpet and window treatments. These expenses are 100 percent deductible, no matter the size of the office.  

Indirect expenses are costs related to your office that affect your entire home. They’re partially deductible based on the size of your office as a percentage of your home. 

For renters, your rent, renters insurance, and utilities are examples of indirect expenses. You’d have these expenses even if you didn’t have a home office.

For homeowners, you can't deduct the principal portion of your mortgage payment, which is the amount borrowed for the home. Instead, you’re allowed to recover a part of the cost each year through depreciation deductions, using formulas created by the IRS.

Other indirect expenses typically include mortgage interest, property taxes, home insurance, utilities, and maintenance. Allowable indirect expenses actually turn some of your personal expenses into home office business deductions, which is fantastic!

Allowable indirect expenses actually turn some of your personal expenses into home office business deductions, which is fantastic!

However, expenses that are entirely unrelated to your home office, such as remodeling in other parts of your home or gardening, are never deductible. So, your ability to deduct an expense when you’re self-employed depends on whether it benefits just your office (such as carpeting and wall paint) or your entire home (such as power and water).

Also, remember that business expenses unrelated to your home office—such as marketing, equipment, software, office supplies, and business insurance—are fully deductible no matter where you work.

How to claim the home office tax deduction

If you qualify for the home office deduction, there are two ways you can calculate it: the standard method or the simplified method.

The standard method requires you to determine the percentage of your home used for business. You divide the square footage of the area used for business by the square footage of your entire home.

For example, if your home office is 12 feet by 10 feet, that’s 120 square feet. If your entire home is 1,200 square feet, then diving 120 by 1,200 gives you a home office space that’s 10 percent of your home. That means 10 percent of the qualifying expenses of your home can be attributed to business use, and the remaining 90 percent is personal use. If your monthly power bill is $100 and 10 percent of your home qualifies for business use, you can consider $10 of the bill a business expense.

To claim the standard deduction, use Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home, to figure out the expenses you can deduct and then file it with Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business.

The simplified method allows you to claim $5 per square foot of your office area, up to a maximum of 300 square feet. So, that caps your deduction at $1,500 (300 square feet x $5) per year.

The simplified method truly is simple because you don’t have to do any record-keeping, just measure the space and include it on Schedule C. It works best for small home offices, while the standard method is better when your office is larger than 300 square feet. You can choose the method that gives you the biggest tax break for any year.

But no matter which method you choose to calculate a home office tax deduction, you can’t deduct more than your business’ net profit. However, you can carry them forward into future tax years.

As you can see, claiming tax deductions for your home office can be complicated. I recommend that everyone who’s self-employed use a qualified tax accountant to maximize both home office and business tax deductions.

Yes, professional advice costs money. But it’s well worth it, and it usually saves money in the long run when you know how to take advantage of every legit tax deduction.

How Does Cash Back Work?

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Does Your Small Business Need a Blog? Blog Writing Services Can Help

If you have a business, the next step to taking it further is to build and grow a connection with your customers. Simply providing a service or product is no longer enough. In a world that is always moving and full of change, people crave meaningful interactions. And that need extends to the products and services they use. Customers want to be surrounded by things they can identify with. If a business with great products or services is also able to provide some kind of added value for someone, that person is more likely to become a loyal patron. 

As a business owner, providing that added value can feel like a huge task. This is where the value of blog writing services can really shine. Not only can these services create more connections between you and your customers, but they can also make your life easier through a smoother workflow. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started.

What are my goals?

Ultimately, you probably hope to increase your sales. However, modern consumers expect personal connections. Set a goal for providing helpful facts that engage new readers. Establish a goal regarding how many new readers left comments on your blog. Consumers are more likely to complete sales when they feel that you hope to improve their lives. 

Do I even need a blog?

Yes. According to studies conducted by the Pew Research Center, people regularly turn to blogs and internet articles instead of using their televisions for news and information.

How can I connect with customers?

A blog allows businesses to connect with customers in many ways. Blogs provide answers to consumers' questions. They make your brand seem approachable and friendly. Blogs encourage readers to interact with your company and maintain meaningful connections. In addition to providing a blog, reach out through social media to invite readers to visit your website. 

Who are my current customers?

If you aren't sure about the needs, motivations, and concerns of your existing customers, it will be easy to miss out on meaningful connections. As you respond to comments on your blog posts or on your social media sites, you'll learn more about the needs that drive sales. While copywriters will spend time researching your current customers, it's also helpful for you to develop relationships with them.

Who is the target audience?

Who benefits most from the goods or services you offer? These people are your target audience. Take a look at the demographics of your existing customers to identify the new audience you want to attract. Remember to focus on how your offerings can improve the lives of your existing customers to understand how to attract people from your target audience. 

How busy is my schedule?

Building and maintaining a blog with a consistent schedule takes a lot of work. Some people make the mistake of underestimating the time commitment that goes into planning, design, and content creation. When your workday is already pushing beyond the 9-to-5 schedule, you don't really have time to produce consistent, fresh content. 

There are a lot of potentially great blogs out there that consist of just one or two posts … last updated eight months ago. If you want to have a blog that builds and sustains an audience, a consistent schedule is critical. Without a schedule, it can sometimes be impossible to ensure posts are written and content keeps flowing. If you have loyal followers and you disappear for several months, you may very well be forgotten! Using blog writing services makes this a non-issue. When someone else writes your content, you can tend to your life and work without having to worry about losing customers.

Can copywriters really represent my voice?

The task of finding someone to accurately portray your company should not be taken lightly. After all, writing in a business or brand's voice is a critical part of the copywriting process.

It is equally important to understand the value of professional copywriters. There are many factors involved in the process of creating great copy that leads to increased sales, and copywriters must understand and use these strategies. With research into your subject and your target consumers, talented copywriters can represent your voice. 

How Can Your Small Shop Get Off To a Roaring Start?

Are you just trying to get your own shop or retail business off the ground? Do you have physical items to sell but don’t have the capital to open a brick-and-mortar store? With the latest iPad point-of-sale (POS) systems, you can sell your products, manage your inventory, show your products to potential customers, and even analyze your progress. This allows you unparalleled flexibility to alter your business strategy for the best results in today’s rapidly changing retail landscape.

Whether your own shop or retail boutique is still a glimmer in your eye or you’ve investigated avenues to making it a reality, you may not realize just how easy it can be to get up and selling. Renting retail space may not make as much sense during a pandemic, but there are other ways to get your products in front of your prospective customers beyond the online arena.

One such way is to investigate opportunities for popup store locations in your area. Farmers markets are great for this, but you need a location that’s equally effective in warm or cold weather. All across the country, malls are looking to repurpose themselves as their anchor department stores go bust. Many mall owners, noting the consumer trend toward buying local, are looking to fill these spaces with small-scale merchants like you. Combining a popup location when it’s cool with an outdoor spot when it’s warm could give you an effective high-traffic spot without shelling out what it would cost to rent, say, space in a strip mall or downtown location.

Get up and running

When you think of opening up your own store, you probably picture a daunting checklist as long as your arm and myriad expenses that would make launching such a venture unacceptably risky. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Today’s POS providers offer packages that can get you up and running for less outlay than you might imagine.

Part of the problem with traditional POS systems was that they were so cumbersome to learn that you could spend a month digging into their complexities and still be unable to perform some basic functions. iPad POS systems are far more intuitive, which means you’ll be able to take advantage of everything the system can do within hours, not days, weeks, or months. At first, you’ll barely be scratching the surface of your system’s capabilities, but as you grow you’ll be well served to take advantage of key features such as inventory management and customer tracking.

Optimize your inventory

The true power of today’s mobile POS systems lies in their ability to track your sales and help you manage your inventory based on your results over time. What do you sell the most and when do you sell it? What’s collecting dust? You’ll be able to view all of this at a glance, and more importantly, you’ll be able to take appropriate actions to load up on what sells and rid yourself of what doesn’t. If you do have an online store, most systems allow you to integrate your inventory management so that someone shopping online isn’t surprised that an item they want is actually out of stock because it was sold to a walk-up customer or vice versa.

Customer tracking and rewards

These days, customers have become accustomed to sharing some data with their favorite shops. This is especially true when they're rewarded for doing so. Forging mutually beneficial customer relationships takes time and can cost you a bit in the short term. However, in the long term, they can pay huge dividends not only in frequent repeat business but also when it comes to spreading the word about your shop on social media and among friends and colleagues. It’s never too early to start identifying and rewarding your loyal customers.

Fortunately, most POS software makes this easy. Simply by providing the phone number or email where they would like their receipt sent, you can start building a profile of their likes and dislikes. You can also use this info to send them promotional messages, though you will need to make sure they opt in to this service.

Customer tracking is a win-win. They win because you can use their preferences to recommend products in which they will likely be interested; you win because you can keep presenting them with products that they’re eager to buy.

If you do start building an email or SMS list, that’s an excellent way to reach out to them with a killer deal when things are slow, or to let them know about an item that you're sure they’ll want to see. Take care, though—it’s very easy to overuse these capabilities, which can drive customers away and turn them into brand ambassadors of the worst kind, former customers who tell prospective customers to stay away. However, done with the right touch, direct marketing programs can bring in a solid core of business on which you can expand.

Contactless payment

With the pandemic raging, no one is eager to touch surfaces outside their home. That’s why it’s so critical to employ a contactless payment solution. iPad POS providers charge a bit more for these card readers, but being able to loudly tell potential customers that you have this capability will pay for the additional expense and then some.

Setting up your own shop is far from a walk in the park, but with a solid plan and a simple iPad POS solution, it need not be nearly as complicated as it has been in the past.

How to Break Through and Overcome Financial Hardships

Your life and personal finances don’t always go the way you hope. We all have struggles and no one achieves success without their share of hurdles and challenges. However, there are tools that can help you break through financial hardships and live the life you want.

I interviewed AJ Gibson, author of Flipping the Script: Bouncing Back from Life’s Rock Bottom Moments, an Amazon #1 new release. We talk about the personal, professional, and financial challenges that he’s overcome.

AJ is a Los-Angeles based TV host, public speaker, and coach who loves great people, food, fashion, entertainment, and travel. He’s been the host of the nationally syndicated daytime talk show, Hollywood Today Live, a co-host on Access Hollywood Live, and a frequent anchor on Good Day LA. You’ll see him on CBS’s The Talk and even on several episodes of The Wendy Williams Show.

His journey from being a closeted gay boy in Ohio to a host chatting with the some of the world’s most admired celebrities on Hollywood’s biggest red carpets is incredibly inspiring. He has a gift for busting through life’s roadblocks and persevering despite failure.

On the Money Girl podcast, AJ and I chatted about key lessons from his book. You’ll learn how to shift your perspective to find the beauty in life’s most challenging moments. We cover:

  • Overcoming the financial hurdles of becoming self-employed
  • Tips for reaching financial goals when you have big dreams
  • Why fear and shame may be causing you to ignore your financial situation
  • Leaning on professionals to help stay on top of your financial life
  • Tools for turning hopelessness into a positive, fresh outlook on your future
  • Using a focus wheel for daily motivation to achieve your dreams and goals

Listen to the interview using the audio player above, or check it out on Apple PodcastsSoundCloudStitcher, and Spotify

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Adams received an MBA from the University of Florida. She's an award-winning personal finance author, speaker, and consumer advocate who is a trusted and frequent source for the national media. Her book, Debt-Free Blueprint: How to Get Out of Debt and Build a Financial Life You Love was an Amazon #1 New Release. Do you have a money question? Call the Money Girl listener line at 302-364-0308. Your question could be featured on the show. Stay in the personal finance loop! Listen and subscribe to the Money Girl podcast on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Easy Ways to Increase Your Earning Potential Today

Are you sick of feeling as though you always have more bills than income? Every month, you work hard to bring home a decent wage to support your family. Yet, somehow, when you need funds, there never seems to be anything available in your bank account. Sometimes, the problem might be that you’re struggling to manage your budget. Not knowing how to properly look after your money could mean that you spend too much, too fast. In other circumstances, your issue might be that you’re not taking advantage of opportunities to increase your earning potential. If you’re already doing everything you can to reduce excess spending and improve your financial habits, but you’re still facing money worries, then the following earning boosters could be just what you need. Let’s look at some quick and easy ways to turn your life around.

Consider a new job

All jobs have their pros and cons to consider. However, some roles definitely pay more than others. If you feel as though you’ve already gotten everything you can out of your current position, and there’s no room left to grow, a new role might be the best option. If you don’t want to switch away from the current company that you’re with, you could ask about switching to a different department. If there’s nowhere else for you to go in your current business, then it might be a good idea to see what someone can offer you elsewhere. Many people who switch jobs can take advantage of looking to improve earning potential than those that stick with the same role. Remember, if you do decide to switch to somewhere new, take your time to find something that actually appeals to you. Don’t just jump at the first offer you get. Play the field first.

Stick with learning about topics that you’re genuinely interested in. This will give you an opportunity to get a job in a space that you enjoy.

Improve your reputation

Reputation can make a big difference in your earning potential these days. In a world where we’re constantly connected to the internet, your image online might help you to find a new or higher-paying job. For instance, if you’re connected to the right people on LinkedIn, then you might speak to someone who can give a good word for you in a higher-paying department in your company. Start by auditing your existing personal brand online. See what people will find if they look for your name. If you have any unprofessional social accounts that are set to public, make them private immediately. Once you’re ready to begin building a name for yourself, look for opportunities to network and show off your skills. This could mean that you join some professional groups, comment on forums, or even visit local events from time to time.

Once you’re ready to begin building a name for yourself, look for opportunities to network and show off your skills.

Develop your skills

Sometimes, jobs will pay you a higher wage for a reason. A career that requires a specialist skill will often pay more than a basic entry-level job. With that in mind, it might be worth building on the talents that you already have. Think about the kind of things that you enjoy doing. Maybe you could work on something like coding or improving your technical expertise. The best way to boost your chances of getting your new skills recognized is to check out some student loans and head back to school. There are tons of different courses that you can take to add new certifications to your resume. You could also look into building out your knowledge about other topics online, taking free courses in your spare time. Stick with learning about topics that you’re genuinely interested in. This will give you an opportunity to get a job in a space that you enjoy.

Ask for a promotion

When’s the last time you just asked your boss whether they could pay you more? If you know that you’ve been delivering excellent work for a good while now, then it might be a good time to ask for a raise. Most business leaders won’t want to take the risk of losing an employee that’s valuable to the team. Check websites that list job openings and find out if there are any higher-paying companies out there that provide a better wage for the role you do now. This will give you a good starting point when you start asking for a wage. If you’re nervous, remember that hiring new team members comes with its own costs. If you’re a great employee, your boss would prefer to keep you around most of the time—even if that means paying more.

If you want to be able to pay your bills each month without worrying about your bank account, it’s worth keeping your mind open to ideas that could increase earning potential.

Start a side hustle

Finally, if you’ve already gone and built some new skills at school, but you haven’t found the perfect job to use them in yet, why not try creating your own career with a side hustle? This is basically a job that you can do on the side to add more income to your bank. Many people have discovered that they can put a few extra hours into their work online each day and make a hefty amount of additional income. Thanks to the gig economy, it’s easy to find opportunities to make cash with things like graphic design, content writing, website development, and more. Start by making a list of the kind of things you’d be interested in doing. You might even decide to create your own business and sell items online using a dropshipping company. Dropshipping services handle things like manufacturing and shipping products for you, so you just need to build a brand and find customers.

Increase your earning potential

Money might not make you happy, but it’s one of the most important things in many of our lives. If you want to be able to pay your bills each month without worrying about your bank account, it’s worth keeping your mind open to ideas that could increase earning potential. Whether you’re developing new cash opportunities with your current employer or thinking about becoming your own boss with a side hustle, make the conscious effort to invest in yourself this year. The quicker you start working on your new earning opportunities, the more money you’ll make for your future.